Friday 31 January 2014

Vernon Silver on the "Apollo of Gaza"

There is quite a lengthy writeup of some of the problems surrounding a recent statue find: Vernon Silver, 'The Apollo of Gaza: Hamas's Ancient Bronze Statue', Bloomsburg's Business week, January 30, 2014. "A thicket of issues surrounding the Apollo’s provenance and ownership will make it hard to establish legal title".

The official story has it being found underwater on Aug. 16 2013, by a fisherman,  Jouda Ghurab from Deir al-Balah (about 8 miles southwest of Gaza City). He raised it and then it was taken by his cousins belonging to Hamas’s militant wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades.* It was moved to Beit Lahia, where attempts were made to interest local collector Jawdat Khoudary in it in September. He alerted officials from the Hamas government who seized the artefact.
Thomas Bauzou, a professor of ancient history at France’s Université d’Orléans [...]  corresponded with the Gaza Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, using photographs to assess the bronze. “This statue is a major discovery,” he wrote in a Sept. 23 letter [...] Bauzou concluded from his research that the statue dated from between the 5th century B.C. and 2nd century A.D.
The statue already seems to be breaking out in bronze disease (chloride corrosion) and urgently needs specialist care. The problem with this is:
Gaza is governed by Hamas, the Islamist movement considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union. [...] Any purchase of the bronze from Hamas by a U.S. or European museum or collector would risk violating sanctions against financing terrorism. [...]  In the hands of the Hamas government, the bronze is worth more than just money. The most valuable reward would be recognition of any kind by U.S. or European institutions and governments. Even the slightest cooperation, say, over restoration, sale, or loan of the statue, could open the diplomatic door a crack. “This case is fiendishly difficult,” says Sam Hardy, a British archaeologist whose Conflict Antiquities website tracks the use of looted artifacts to fund war. “National and international laws make it difficult to assist the administration in the West Bank, let alone that in the Gaza Strip. Indeed, any sale or leasing of the statue might normalize looting of antiquities as a funding stream for Hamas.” [...]

A curious episode in the story was that on the 10th of October, seller "thn87" offered the Apollo of Gaza for sale on eBay, starting bid, $500,000. Shipping was listed as “Free Local Pickup” in Gaza—which was either optimistic, a joke, or a scam to get someone to pay a deposit. In addition to this, there are a number of holes in the discovery of the statue:
Neither Humbert nor Bauzou believes Ghurab discovered the bronze underwater. “It does not come from the sea. It’s obvious,” Bauzou says. The giveaway, they say, is the lack of any sea encrustation or damage from hundreds of years underwater. Instead, they suspect the bronze came from a clandestine excavation somewhere on land. “This story has been fabricated to hide the real place where the statue was found so they can continue digging.” In the antiquities racket, which is riddled with scams and fakes, crazier things have happened. In this case, if it turned out the bronze came from, say, a pilfered temple complex, it would be much more toxic for museums than a chance underwater find. [...]  It’s possible the fisherman’s story is an elaborate hoax. It is true the Apollo isn’t encrusted with barnacles, but not all submerged bronzes get crusty [...] the Riace bronzes from 1972 appear to have come ashore with skin as smooth as that of the Gaza bronze. 
See also:
Sam Hardy, 'The Apollo of Gaza: 'nobody can say, “I didn't know where it came from'... Conflict antiquities Oct 13, 2013

Sam Hardy, 'The Apollo of Gaza: less innocent origins, equally problematic destinations', Conflict antiquities  October 16, 2013

Sam Hardy, 'Who ran the eBay auction of the Gaza Apollo?' Conflict antiquities October 25, 2013

Elder of Ziyon, 'The strange case of the Gaza Apollo statue (update)', the elder of ziyon Tuesday, October 15, 2013

* The brigades, which are known for their suicide bombings in Israel, are composed of a network of secret cells. They operate with some autonomy from the Hamas political movement, which runs Gaza.


Sweedie-The-Cat said...

I have several ideas here:

1) I don't suppose the statue could be GIVEN by "them" to some famous neutral museum, as an "Act of Good Faith"? I am sure there are museums in Canada, Europe, the Middle East. Perhaps an Israeli Museum. ... They do own the Middle East, you know. And they have tons of money and resources.

Then, this task being accomplished, some charitable organization like the Red Cross, could be allowed in to this 21st century concentration camp ... to deliver medical supplies, food, gasoline, lumber, and also art supplies - making the thing a quid pro quo... (There are artists living there, and a statue is piece of art. So, art for art.)

Since no weapons or "things that could be used as weapons", (other than moral or intellectual ones) would be involved.... This should suit most people.

2) Other than that, another idea, is simplicity itself: We actually have tons of old scrap from antiquity. With the problems of today's world, we can not afford to "care for more of it". People are starving, and we spend billions on silly museums full of scrap metal and old bits of stone! Melt this statue down, and sell it as "scrap recycled metal" on the vast international market. It would be very hard to trace the metal. And without the source of the argument, there is no more argument.... A Solomonic idea, but, it does remove the issue of the strife.

3) Tell them they have 64 hours to go bury the darned thing back where they found it. No one wants it, or needs it. It sat there, lonely, unloved, unneeded, or wanted for about 2000 years. If they refuse, we apply draconian sanctions. Of course, this would be a very hard thing to accomplish!

Now which solution is best, I do not know...

I myself favour option #2. Have you seen the price of copper today? This is a valuable industrial mineral and should not be wasted. I am a practical man. We live in a world of scarce resources. A piece of copper pipe in a washroom, or a heating system, could save lives. (I have seen it happen.) A silly statue that will merely bring discord and "war", will not save anything . Sorry, but if you look around, we have millions of statues. Take a few pics of it, and post them on a public domain UN website. Then all the world can enjoy them, for free, and the scrap metal income will benefit everyone, when it is turned into food for children.

I know some will cry over the "loss of a statue". But we have NOT lost anything. We NEVER had it. Some unknown person(s) "had it" thousands of years ago, and they "lost it". They are long dead, and do not miss it in the least.

Far better that ... than conflict.

Paul Barford said...

Yes, as for your "option two", it is my hope that many of the people reading this blog would "cry over the loss of the statue" as well as its archaeological context. But then you have just changed selling the statue (for millions) to selling the scrap (for a few hundred at most) - the same problem, but selling the statue would "save more lives". So that is not only the solution of a Philistine, but also totally illogical.

I suggest you organize a campaign amongst your neighbours to rip out all your and their copper pipes and motherboards and send them to Palestine if you think they need copper so much.

Thank you for your comment. No more here like these please.

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