Sunday, 5 November 2017

A Perth Collector's Stash

'Real life tomb raider Joan Howard pictured with a mummy mask
she found at Sakkara the ancient burial ground serving as the
 necropolis for the ancient Egyptian capital Memphis'. Note the
scarabs and ancient beads worn in the photo Picture: Steve Ferrier 
Australia's real life 'tomb raider', 95-yr old Joan Howard "used her diplomatic freedom to search for antiquities" ( Joseph Catanzaro. 'Indiana Joan: Meet WA’s real life tomb raider, 95-year-old Joan Howard' West Australian Saturday, 4 November 2017)
Deep beneath the badlands of Palestine, alone in a darkened tomb, Joan Howard crawled forward on her stomach in search of lost treasures. It was the late 1960s, a turbulent time in the Middle East[...]. Ten metres above her, at the top of a vertical shaft hewn out of the desert bedrock, a colleague began to winch her swaying bucket of artefacts to the surface. Five decades and thousands of kilometres away from that moment, sitting in the tastefully decorated surrounds of her riverside apartment in Perth this week, Mrs Howard smiles and hefts a mummy mask pulled from the sucking sands of Egypt on one of her many expeditions. It is one of many artefacts acquired on her adventures, a collection come [sic] treasure trove the public has never seen. [...] Through her husband’s UN connections, over 11 years she was given carte blanche to travel between Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel. She used her diplomatic freedom to search for antiquities before laws changed and it became legally difficult to do so.
Well, actually, in most of those countries, the law has not changed that much since 1967.  This is horrendous. While a provincial journalist in Australia might not have the words to understand what's going on (he describes what the diplomat's wife was dioing as 'archaeology'), others are able to see it in a context.
Diplomats and their spouses committing cultural crimes under cover of diplomatic immunity a big reason people have probs with UN missions
This woman knows exactly what she did- she destroyed the archaeology for her own self gain. She should be demonised- not cherished.
White lady uses position of power to nick stuff from graves despite knowing better and thinks it's a lark
Dear : the laws *WERE* strict back then, this lady just broke them. These were and are crimes.
Awful. If she started looting in 1967 and continued for 11 years then it was not legal. Seize this collection.
This is just awful.= is trying to make cultural theft sound like a charming trait in a harmless old woman (It's not)
This collection should be seized and repatriated. The article links looting to her passion for archaeology, but looting is not archaeology.
For Rainer Schreg's take on this: 'Australische Diplomatengattin plündert den Vorderen Orient - und ist auch noch stolz darauf', 5th Nov 2017.
Joan Howard nutzte den Diplomatenstatus ihres bei der UN tätigen Mannes aus. Die australischen Strafverfolgungsbehörden sollten hier dringend Ermittlungen aufnehmen. Eine Rückgabe wird die Schäden am historischen Quellenwert nicht wieder gut machen, aber wenigstens die Ungerechtigkeit des Raubs anerkennen. Der bereits lauernde Händler, sollte jedenfalls wissen, dass er es mit unethischer Ware zu tun hat.
This is an intervew with her husband, the tenth part deals with his UN work after 1967.
'We had a little cottage with a back view down over the Sea of Galilee, which was quite nice and the Golan and so on, not far from Capernaum the loaves and the fishes miracle and all that stuff. We had a priestly friend up there on one of the monasteries who was also an amateur archaeologist and took us out to quite a lot of places where some of the things that we’ve got in the cabinet out there came from. So that was a nice vacation. Joan used to go off and the daughter when I was on duty she’d go off and exercise her self in these archaeological digs with local friends. So it was very satisfying and the people coming through the UNMOs from different countries and in particular their families living in the towns had their own social groups of course'.
Keith and Joan Howard
There is also other material on Keith Howard's career, which may be helpful in working out where Joan was taking her stuff from, and the chronology of when it was taken out of the source countries and removed to Australia.

Looking at some of the stuff displayed in the article however, I wonder how many of the items brought back were found by this self-proclaimed 'tomb robber;' with her romanticised self-aggrandising stories, and how much she bought in bazaars (like the SE Asian art on display in the hall at the beginning of the film). Those necklaces for example have modern clasps, did the 'archaeologist' do that, or were these bought? If the latter is applicable, are they all antiquities at all? Some look particularly dubious...

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