Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The Global Top Ten Looted Artifacts?

Over on something called Mujipao's Blog, "Just another WordPress.com weblog", there is a post called "Tracking the global top ten looted artifacts" which despite its somewhat dodgy translation into English from, I imagine, Chinese may be of iterest. They are:

1)The Nefertiti bust from the Amarna excavations,
2)The marbles ripped off from the Parthenon in Athens,
3)The body of Sarah Baartman, The "Hottentot Venus",
4)Mummy of Ramsses the Great (eh?),
5)The Euphronios Krater, stolen from Italy, for a time in the New York Metropolitan Museum,
6)"Priam's Treasure" from Schliemann's excavations at Hissarlik, Now in Sankt Petersburg as war-booty [sort of] (I think that's what he means),
7)The "Koh-i-noor" diamond 'acquired" by the British in 1849,
8)Geronimo’s skull
9)Everything still missing from the Iraq National Museum
10)The animal heads from the 1860 looting of the Summer Palace Haiyantang water clock made for the Qianlong Emperor has to be "number one".

Hmm. A varied list and interestingly selected. Number two I can agree with. I do not accept that (however reegretatable that it is not in Eypt) the nefertiti bust was lost through dishonesty, rather carelessness on the part of the relevant authorities. Number three is a dark shadow on European "science" but surely not "looting as we know it", number 8 is just disgusting, but again not really looting as such. Number five, another stain, no doubt that it should be in the list symbolising all sorts of evils of the antiquities trade. No doubt about number nine, another stain and another symptom of the evils of the no-questions-asked collectors' market. I'm not sure about Ramsses the Great being on this list, another cadaver. It came from the investigation (that should be in inverted commas really) of the Deir Cache and is in Cairo Museum. Maybe Mujipao does not think he should be on display? I have mixed feelings about this myself. Should he be in a box? Should he be back down in the crumbling Theban cache tomb? "Priam's Treasure", perhaps it should not be in either Germany or Russia, but back in Turkey. Keeping it as war loot is not really on. Koh-i-Nor, that's a difficult one, its owner was "made an offer he could not refuse" buy the Brits, but then was it his to own?

Then we come to those animal heads... not that I am not sympathetic, but not quite the same class as the Parthenon Marbles as looting, and only a small fraction of what was lost from the summer palace looting. But yes, it would be nice to see all twelve back in place, though I'd not place it at number one myself.

Which of course illustrates how subjective such a list could be. It seems that its author has chosen an interesting range of problems, but there seems an interesting concentration on "items taken for dominance" in keeping with the placing of the Haiyantang heads at the top of the list. "Academic greed/kudos seeking (items 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, perhaps 2) also figures as another leitmotif.

So perhaps readers might like to give some though to their own top ten?

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