jump to navigation

Athens conference told of artifacts looted March 19, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Arts Museums, Shows & Conferences.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Antiquities smuggling is helping to finance terror > Athens conference told of artifacts looted in war-torn regions

19-03-08_entrance_new_acropolis_museum.jpg  The entrance of the new Acropolis Museum, which this week hosted a UNESCO-organized conference on the return of antiquities to their country of origin. The fate of antiquities looted from Iraq was in the spotlight yesterday at a UNESCO-sponsored conference in Athens on the return of cultural property.

When Baghdad fell to the US-led coalition that toppled Saddam Hussein, the world watched in horror as looters ransacked the museum that housed some of the nation’s most prized treasures. Today, trafficking of stolen Iraqi antiquities is helping to finance al-Qaida in Iraq and Shiite militias, according to the US investigator who led the probe into the looting of the National Museum.

United States Marine Reserve Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, a New York assistant district attorney called up to duty shortly after 9/11, said that while kidnappings and extortion remain insurgents’ main source of funds, the link between terrorism and antiquities smuggling has become “undeniable.”

“The Taliban are using opium to finance their activities in Afghanistan,” Bogdanos told The Associated Press in an interview on the sidelines of the conference. “Well, they don’t have opium in Iraq. What they have is an almost limitless supply of antiquities. And so they’re using antiquities.”

The murky world of antiquities trafficking extends across the globe and is immensely lucrative, private collectors can pay tens of millions of dollars for the most valuable artifacts. It’s almost impossible to put an authoritative monetary value on Iraqi antiquities. But as an indication, the colonel said one piece looted from the National Museum – an 8th-century-BC Assyrian ivory carving of a lioness attacking a Nubian boy, overlaid with gold and inlaid with lapis lazuli – could sell for $100 million.

Bogdanos, 51, an amateur boxer with a master’s degree in classics who won the Bronze Star fighting in Afghanistan, said it was not until late 2004 “that we saw the use of antiquities in funding initially the Sunnis and al-Qaida in Iraq, and now the Shiite militias.”

Although security has improved dramatically in Iraq since mid-2007, the country is still violence-ridden, and it is all but impossible for Iraq’s 1,500 archaeological guards to protect the country’s more than 12,000 archaeological sites.

“Unauthorized excavations are proliferating throughout the world, especially in conflict zones,” Francoise Riviere, the assistant director-general of UNESCO’s cultural branch, said at the conference. She said UNESCO was deeply concerned about the “decimation” of Iraq’s cultural heritage. “The damage inflicted on the National Museum in Baghdad, the increasingly precarious state and the systematic pillage of sites are alarming facts which are a great challenge to the international community,” Riviere said.

Bahaa Mayah, an adviser to Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, told the conference that looters sometimes use heavy machinery to dig up artifacts – destroying the site while they loot. He decried a lack of cooperation among some European countries, which he refused to name, in returning trafficked goods seized from smugglers. “We are facing now, especially in Europe, tremendous difficulties in recovering our objects that are seized,” he said.

Bogdanos said smuggling networks did not appear with or after the war. “It’s a pre-existing infrastructure; looting’s been going on forever.”

But it was in the days after the fall of Baghdad in March 2003 that the National Museum was looted. The United States came under intense criticism for not protecting the museum, a treasure trove of antiquities. Bogdanos said that according to the latest inventories, a total of about 15,000 artifacts were stolen. Of those, about 4,000 have been returned to the museum, and a total of about 6,000 have been recovered.

Much of the museum’s looting was carried out by insiders and senior government officials of the time, said Bogdanos, who co-authored a book about the investigation, “Thieves of Baghdad” with William Patrick. Royalties from the book are donated to the museum. Bogdanos said not enough is being done by organizations such as UNESCO to protect Iraq’s heritage. “There’s no other way to say it. There’s a vacuum at the top,” he said.

Advertisements

Greek push for return of Parthenon Marbles March 18, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Shows & Conferences, Vote For Return Greek Marbles.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Changes in museum policies and an increase in instances of cooperation between different countries for the repatriation of looted artifacts could pave the way for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, Culture Minister Michalis Liapis told an international conference in Athens yesterday.

“More and more museums are adopting tighter ethics codes and governments are promoting cooperation, so the ideal momentum is being created for clear solutions,” Liapis told the UNESCO event at the New Acropolis Museum.

Museum officials and archaeologists gave several examples of repatriated artifacts, such as the Obelisk of Axum, returned to Ethiopia from Rome in 2005. Experts also remarked upon the increase of works being smuggled out of war zones.

Christiane Tytgat, former curator at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels and director of the Netherlands Institute in Athens, said the Parthenon Marbles, currently in the British Museum, should be sent back too.“I support their return unreservedly… this is where they belong,” Tytgat said.

International conference at the New Acropolis Museum March 15, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Museums, Shows & Conferences, Vote For Return Greek Marbles.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

The place, the viewpoint and the general atmosphere of the conference on the return of cultural property for the first international meeting at the New Acropolis Museum in Athens.

15-03-08_new_acropolis_museum.jpg  The photograph is from the Greek Cultural Foundation’s leaflet ‘The New Acropolis Museum’

Nobody can stop an idea whose time has finally come. This blog has written on several occasions about how the issue of the return of the Parthenon Marbles has gone from being a national demand to an international imperative, supported by leading figures from around the world who want to see the parts of the UNESCO-listed monument reunited.

But it will take more than being in the right to get back the marbles that Thomas Bruce, the seventh earl of Elgin, dismantled, stole and took away in 1801, when Athens was under Ottoman rule. With the permission of the sultan, Lord Elgin, then the British ambassador to Constantinople, had the Parthenon friezes cut up and transported to England, where they were bought by the British government. It, in turn, donated them to the British Museum in London where they have remained since.

What was needed, as Melina Mercouri told a plenary session of UNESCO in 1982, when, as the country’s Culture Minister, she initiated her campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, was “a new museum to house them,” given that the existing Acropolis Museum was already full. In order to build the Museum, Mercouri’s husband, the noted American-born French filmmaker Jules Dassin created the Melina Mercouri Foundation, to which he donated his fortune.

The state undertook the project, putting distinguished architect Dimitris Pantermalis at the helm. Renowned architect Bernard Tschumi collaborated with Greek architect Michalis Fotiadis in designing the project that is today coming to fruition opposite the Acropolis.

While the British Museum continues to insist that the Parthenon marbles should stay in the English capital where visitors from all over the world come to see them in the Duveen Gallery, its position is weakening. The upper floor of the New Acropolis Museum will showcase the surviving marbles, together with copies of those in the British Museum so as to show a complete picture of this matchless work of art.

This blog believes that they will return to their place of origin under pressure from the public and governments. One promising indication is that countries and museums around the world are starting to return works of art to the places from which they were removed due to wear, bombardment or illegal activities.

An international conference on the return of cultural property starts Monday, March 17, at the New Acropolis Museum, organized by UNESCO and the Greek Culture Ministry. It is the first in a series of international gatherings organized by UNESCO and its member states to foster awareness and provide a forum for reflection and exchanges on the issue of the return of cultural property.

Greek President Karolos Papoulias will attend the opening of the conference. Culture Minister Michalis Liapis and UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture Francoise Riviere will greet the participants. The event is coordinated by Vivi Vassilopoulou, the general manager of antiquities and cultural heritage at the Greek Culture Ministry.

For two days, the conference will address the issue, with examples ranging from Italy’s return of an obelisk to Ethiopia to the return by Edinburgh of Aboriginal remains to Australia. There’s a strong feeling among journalists that Elena Korka, the head of the Culture Ministry’s directorate of prehistoric and classical antiquities, will seize upon the opportunity presented by the conference to raise the issue of the Parthenon Marbles, because nothing can stop an idea whose time has come.

Tsunami readiness tests for coastlines March 14, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Environment, Nature, Science.
Tags: , , , , , ,
comments closed

Greece should start holding tsunami readiness tests in the southern Aegean and southern Ionian, according to Greek and Italian scientists who are creating an early warning system for the Mediterranean.

The system, being developed under the auspices of UNESCO, should be in place by the end of the year and fully functional by 2011, according to Stefano Tinti of the University of Bologna.

Already three seismograph systems are in operation, said Gerasimos Papadopoulos of the Athens Geodynmaic Institute, adding that six sea-level gauges will be set up, two in Crete and four in the Ionian.

Particular care must be taken during the tourist season, the experts said. “Local authorities will be trained in readiness exercises,” Tinti said. “Evacuating the beaches of 10 Greek islands in summer cannot be taken lightly,” he added.

UPDATED > 15 March 2008 >>> Tsunami that devastated the ancient world could return

“The sea was driven back, and its waters flowed away to such an extent that the deep sea bed was laid bare and many kinds of sea creatures could be seen,” wrote Roman historian Ammianus Marcellus, awed at a tsunami that struck the then-thriving port of Alexandria in 365 AD.

“Huge masses of water flowed back when least expected, and now overwhelmed and killed many thousands of people… Some great ships were hurled by the fury of the waves onto the rooftops, and others were thrown up to two miles (three kilometres) from the shore.”

Ancient documents show the great waves of July 21, 365 AD claimed lives from Greece, Sicily and Alexandria in Egypt to modern-day Dubrovnik in the Adriatic.

Swamped by sea water, rich Nile delta farmland was abandoned and hilltop towns became ghost-like, inhabited only by hermits. The tsunami was generated by a massive quake that occurred under the western tip of the Greek island of Crete, experts believe. Until now, the main thinking has been that this quake, as in the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004, occurred in a so-called subduction zone.

A subduction zone is where two of the Earth’s plates meet. One plate rides over another plate which is gliding downward at an angle into the planet’s mantle. Subduction zones usually have measurable creep, of say a few centimetres (inches) a year. But as the rock becomes brittle and deformed at greater depths, these zones can also deliver titanic quakes, displacing so much land that, when the slippage occurs on the ocean floor, a killer wave is generated.

The 365 AD quake occurred at a point on the 500-kilometre (300-mile) long Hellenic subduction zone, which snakes along the Mediterranean floor in a semi-circle from southwestern Turkey to western Greece.

Researchers in Britain have taken a fresh look at this event and have come up with some worrying news. University of Cambridge professor Beth Shaw carried out a computer simulation of the quake, based especially on fieldwork in Crete where the push forced up land by as much as 10 metres (32.5 feet).

They estimate the quake to have been 8.3-8.5 magnitude and that its land displacement, of 20 metres (65 feet) on average, puts it in the same category as the 9.3 temblor that occurred off Sumatra in 2004. They conclude the slippage occurred along 100 kilometres (about 60 miles) on a previously unidentified fault that lies close to the surface, just above the subduction zone.

The quake happened at a depth of around 45 kilometres (30 miles), around 30 kilometres (20 miles) closer to the surface than would have been likely if the slip had occurred on the subduction fault itself. After the 365 AD quake, the fault is likely to remain quiet for around 5,000 years.

But if the tectonic structure along the rest of the Hellenic subduction zone is similar, a tsunami-generating quake could strike the eastern Mediterranean in roughly 800 years, the scientists estimate. The last tsunami to hit the eastern Mediterranean occurred on August 8, 1303. According to research published in 2006, a quake off Crete of about 7.8 magnitude hit Alexandria 40 minutes later with a wave nine metres (29.25 feet) high.

“That there has been only one other such event… in the past 1,650 years should focus our attention on the modern-day tsunami hazard in the eastern Mediterranean,” the new study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, warns. “Repetition of such an event would have catastrophic consequences for today’s densely-populated Mediterranean coastal regions.”

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is setting up a tsunami alert system for the Mediterranean as part of a global network established after the 2004 Indian Ocean disaster.

Cypriot Minister condemns destruction of cultural heritage November 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Occupied.
Tags: , , , , ,
comments closed

Cypriot Minister of Education and Culture Akis Cleanthous has condemned the destruction of the historical monuments in the Turkish occupied and military controlled areas of Cyprus.

Speaking at the 34rth General Conference of UNESCO, in Paris, Cleanthous said that “today, due to the military occupation, our government does not have access to these sites and monuments, leaving them at the mercy of nature’s elements or worse, at risk of being deliberately destroyed”.

The Cypriot Minster noted that through the ratification in 1979 of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970) and the ratification, in 2001, of the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1999), “our government is trying to re-gain access to the archaeological sites and monuments that are in the occupied area in northern Cyprus”.

“There are numerous examples of illegal archaeological excavations as well as trafficking of masterpieces such as Byzantine icons, mosaics, frescoes and other priceless antiquities”, he added. He also said that the archaeological sites and monuments of Cyprus are on the World Heritage list as well as on the European Heritage Label list. “We have achieved high standards in conservation of cultural properties as evidenced by the restoration of the medieval fortifications of Nicosia and a number of churches, mosques, water mills, olive-presses, bridges and houses of traditional architecture”, he added.

As regards the Cyprus problem, the Cypriot Minister said that the Cypriot government is committed to the final settlement of the Cyprus problem. “We constantly trying to find a solution and we hope that through the mutual efforts of both communities in the island we can set an example of peace and reconciliation in order to build new and harmonious relations”, he pointed out.

Referring to the field of culture, Cleanthous said that Cyprus has ratified the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and has set a new strategy, which aims to ensure that the right conditions are present for cultural diversity in Cyprus to flourish and to enhance the status of cultural industries as a significant source of revenue and jobs.

Concluding, he reminded that Cyprus had hosted the first UNESCO Euro-Mediterranean Youth Forum on “Young People and the Dialogue among Civilizations, Cultures, and People” in November 2006, bringing together young delegates from 34 countries from Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Greece assumes UNESCO Presidency October 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.
Tags: , ,
comments closed

Greece assumed the Presidency of UNESCO for the first time in 62 years on Tuesday October 16th.

The country’s Ambassador to UNESCO Georgios Anastassopoulos, was unanimously elected President of the Organisation at its 34th general conference session in Paris, for the next two years.

Greek President Papoulias’s UNESCO speech on the Parthenon Marbles > The President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias, speaking on October 18th at UNESCO in Paris, emphasized the role of Greece within the centuries and in world history.

President Papoulias spoke of Greece as a center of initiatives connected to the preservation of cultural heritage in Southeastern Europe. In the presence of UNESCO’s distinguished audience, President Papoulias said that the issue of the return of the Parthenon Marbles, currently in the British Museum, is still open, thereby giving the issue itself further international exposure.

President Papoulias said that “civilization is a constant concern for UNESCO. This was proved in 2003 through the International Convention for the protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage”. In reference to the Parthenon Marbles the Greek President said “I have faith in the values that big Museums espouse and I feel that recently we have seen the emergence of a positive climate. I hope that the completion of the New Acropolis Museum will become an exceptional reason for the final resolution of this long-standing issue. The demand for the return of the Parthenon Marbles is both an ecumenical and a contemporary demand. I am touched by the fact that my speech coincides with the birth date of Melina Merkouri, for whom the return of the marbles was a lifelong aspiration”.

President Papoulias also spoke about Greek efforts to develop, through UNESCO, regional initiatives for the preservation of the cultural heritage of different people. Regarding Southeastern Europe, Greece will host the “Intercultural Encounters on Maritime, River and Lake Routes in Southeastern Europe” convention of Heads of State of the region in 2008.

The invitation extended to the Greek President coincides with the election of Greek Ambassador to the Presidency of the UNESCO General Conference. President Papoulias is the third Greek President, after Constantine Tsatsos in 1979 and Constantine Karamanlis in 1982, to address the General Conference.

International Melina Mercouri Prize awarded October 4, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Europe.
Tags: , , , ,
comments closed

International Melina Mercouri Prize awarded to Russian Federation’s Borodino Battlefield

At a ceremony held today at UNESCO Headquarters Mrs Françoise Rivière, Assistant Director-General for Culture, gave the award for the International Melina Mercouri Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes (UNESCO-Greece) to the Borodino Battlefield (Russian Federation).

This prize, named after Melina Mercouri, former Greek Minister of Culture, is financed by the Government of Greece and consists of a cheque for an amount of US $20,000 for the management of a cultural landscape. A special mention was also awarded to the Grand Bassin (Ganga Talao) (Mauritius).

Full details of the laureates and the prize can be found at > http://whc.unesco.org/en/melinamercouriprize/