Wednesday 7 April 2010

Countries Discuss Recovering Antiquities

Antiquities officials from around the world are gathering in Cairo today a two-day conference hosted by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). The aim of the forum is to discuss "the protection and restitution of cultural heritage", and will primarily be concerned with mapping out a strategy to recover ancient artefacts which have been pillaged from their countries and displayed as trophies abroad.* Delegates will also draw up lists of artefacts missing from their countries and displayed in museums abroad, treasures they have been demanding be returned, the SCA said.

The conference may also call on the United Nations cultural body UNESCO to amend the Convention on the "means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property" to take account of developments in the field that have appeared since it was drafted in the 1960s.

The delegates are antiquities officials, deputy culture ministers and museum directors from 21 countries that have seen some of their national heritage stolen over the centuries. The countries represented are from the Americas - Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, the United States ; Asia - China, India, South Korea, Sri Lanka; Africa - Egypt, Libya, Nigeria; The Near East -Iraq, Syria; and Europe - Austria, Italy, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Russia, Spain. Reportedly 9 other countries were invited to attend but did not send delegates.
Britain, France and Germany which have been repeatedly accused by Egypt of illicitly holding Pharaonic artefacts are not attending.

Greece, one of the countries attending the conference, will chair a session devoted to "problems facing the countries in their attempt to retrieve their antiquities", no doubt drawing on its experiences with its decades-long struggle with London to retrieve the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum.

Since becoming head of antiquities in 2002, Director Zahi Hawass has made reclaiming illegally exported items from Egypt one of the cornerstones of his policy to bring Egyptian archaeology more firmly into the hands of Egyptians. He insists that "what has been stolen from us must be returned", and it is hard to argue with that. Which of course does not stop dealers and some museum directors with atavistic views attempting to do precisely that. This stance is one of the reasons why Hawass is the subject of such a virulent hate-campaign by the lobbyists for an indiscriminate trade in antiquities and its supporters.

* The France 24 video shows some confusing images of replicas of material from Tutankhamen's tomb to accompany thir news report. Most of the many press releases circulating today and yesterday have an identical text.
Photo: Nefertiti's "I am tired and want to go home" expression.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.