Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Destruction and Looting of Antiquities in Yemen

Yemen is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites and national museums that house priceless artifacts.

Bombs dropped by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen resulted in the complete destruction of the museum of Dhamar in the southwest, which contained thousands of artifacts from the Himyarite Kingdom.

Mohanad Ahmad al-Sayani, chair of Yemen’s General Organization of Antiquities and Museums in Sana’a, has lamented "Our immortal history has been wasted by wars."

The Yemeni cultural losses are noted by archaeologists. Although the country has been far less studied than Mesopotamia, it played a critical role in the rise of empires and economies in the region starting around 1000 B.C.

According to archaeologist Sarah Japp of Berlin’s German Archaeological Institute, "The destruction seems deliberate." She stated that, “The Saudis were given information on important cultural heritage sites, including exact coordinates"by UNESCO.

Japp was based in Sana’a before the war. UNESCO intended to protect the sites, but she fears that the data may instead have been used for targeting. “There is no reason to say all of these [bombings] are just accidents.”

There is evidence of al-Qaida raids on museums in Yemen and evidence in Europe of dealers who have been selling these antiquities. A special forces raid of one of the complexes of the chief financial officer of ISIS, receipts of about $5 million worth of antiquities sold over the course of a year were found.

At least 100 artifacts from Yemen have been successfully sold at auction for an estimated $1 million in the U.S., Europe and the United Arab Emirates since 2011, according to a Live Science investigation into the country's so-called "blood antiquities."

Monday, October 28, 2019

Funding ISIS by Looting Antiquities

This marble bas-relief, likely looted by Islamic State, was seized at Paris’s Roissy airport in March 2016 after arriving from North Lebanon. PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Plundered antiquities from Syria were sold to ISIS and used by that terrorist organization to fund their fighting. The group looted ancient sites and also purchased ancient statues, jewelry and other precious artifacts stolen in Syria and Iraq. Experts say it may take decades for the stolen artifacts to surface.

“Once looted in Syria and Iraq, objects enter a gray market shrouded in secrecy,” said Michael Danti, an archaeologist who directs the Boston-based Cultural Heritage Initiatives and advises the U.S. State Department on the looting of antiquities in Syria. “It’s a problem that will stay with us for years to come.”

Read more here.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Iconoclasm Means the Destruction of Heritage

The Sun overshadows the golden bull calf as a sign of divine appointment. 
This is a Messianic image that iconoclasts attempted to obliterate.

Alice C. Linsley

A great threat to the preservation of antiquities comes from groups seeking to destroy images of which they disapprove. This is called "iconoclasm" from the Greek Eikonoklasmos meaning "image-breaking."

Today we read about statues of Confederate soldiers being damaged or removed because some find them offensive. In most cases, the statues are safely stored or placed in a less public place. The historical value of these statues and monuments is recognized by more resilient minds.

Smashing images or destroying places of historical value does not erase the tragic events of the past. It almost insures that similar events will happen again. It is better that Auschwitz be preserved as a reminder of Nazi hatred and genocidal actions.

Iconoclasm and the destruction of monuments and antiquities is prompted by prejudice, hatred, and ideological fervor. Religious extremism also leads to smashing images in an attempt to destroy the religious tradition of others. The destruction of artifacts of historical and anthropological value leads to the destruction of a people's social and religious heritage. It is difficult for a people to recover from the loss and it may take many generations to recover.

In the sixteenth century, the Puritans stripped the churches in England of crosses, statues, icons, and stained glass windows. Under Oliver Cromwell, thousands of sacred objects were destroyed. Items of value such as precious metals and gems were re-purposed and sold to fund Cromwell's wars in Scotland and Ireland.

Iconoclasm is endorsed by the Deuteronomist in the Bible.
"...  ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire." (Deuteronomy 7:5)
The main targets to be smashed were the bamot (high or exalted places). These "high places" were originally royal places of worship. Under the guise of opposing "idolatry" the places of worship that competed with the high place of Jerusalem were to be destroyed.

King Josiah destroyed the solar horses that had been a sacred symbol among the ancient Hebrew for many generations (II Kings 23:11). Iconoclasts attempted to remove the Messianic image of the Golden Calf which was fabricated by the ruler-priest Aaron and which were found at the high places of Israelite worship at Bethel and Dan.

In 2001, Islamic fundamentalists destroyed images regarded as world treasures in Afghanistan. Extremists smashed three hundred of the 2,500 objects that had been painstakingly reassembled at the Kabul Museum and looted thousands of artifacts.

Recently, ardent opposition to the controversial Amazon Synod led some Roman Catholics to toss indigenous Pachamama figurines into the Tiber River. Though the figurines are not appropriate in the context of a Christian church, they should not have been destroyed. They have historical, religious, and anthropological value.

Related reading: Graven Images and Idols; Fundamentalism and Syncretism in Hebrew History; Looting and Burning of Churches and Images in Chile

Friday, October 18, 2019

Four Antiquities Thieves Arrested in Israel

Suspected burglars spotted by the Civil Administration's Archaeology Unit and Nature Authority near the Jordan Valley archaeological site of Tana a-Tahta. (COGAT Spokesperson's Office)

Two crews of antiquities thieves were arrested at sites in eastern Samaria in the West Bank in two unrelated incidents in the past two weeks.

According to the Ministry of Defense release, when the four suspects were arrested by Israel Police they had in their possession excavation tools, metal detectors, as well as a Jeep Defender, which were all confiscated. Following a court hearing, two were released after serving 10 days in jail and fined NIS 2,000 ($550). The other two burglars are still serving their 35-day sentence and will be fined NIS 4,000. An additional NIS 8,000 fine was levied on the burglars for the confiscated vehicle.

In a statement released by the Ministry of Defense, Head of the Civil Administration’s Archaeology Unit Hananya Hizmi said, “The phenomenon of the theft and destruction of antiquities causes both historical and cultural damage to all of the residents of the region.

The suspects were stopped at the northern Jordan Valley Hasmonean site of Alexandrium, which was built by Alexander Yannai (104-77 BCE) and rebuilt by Herod (74-4 BCE) as a fortress. It was razed in the Great Revolt against the Romans, circa 72 CE.

The site of Alexandrium is also known as Sartaba in the Babylonian Talmud, which identifies it as a “signal mountain.” It is the second in a chain of stations in which fires were lit to proclaim the new moon, which began the new Hebrew month.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Mosque Door Ornament Recovered

The copper decoration of the Al-Kady Abdel Baset mosque now restored.

Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities has restored a copper ornament that once decorated the main door of the Al-Kady Abdel-Baset mosque in Old Cairo. The Al-Kady Abdel-Baset mosque was built in 1420 AD.

The copper ornament was stolen from the outer door of the mosque in 2014.

Gamal Mustafa, head of the Islamic, Coptic and Jewish Antiquities Department explained that the police had identified the thief by reviewing surveillance cameras in the area.

The suspect was found in possession of several stolen items from mosques in Cairo, including a wooden decorative motif from the Gany Bek Mosque, and a decorative handwritten relief from the Ahmed Al-Mehmendar Mosque in Al-Darb Al-Ahmar.

Source: Archaeology

Monday, October 7, 2019

Stolen Coffin Returned to Egypt

US authorities have returned a stolen coffin to Egypt, two years after it was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for $4m (£3.2m) from a Parisian art dealer.

The 2,100-year-old coffin was that of a priest called Nedjemankh who served Horus as a Ram (Heryshef). The decorated surface includes scenes and prayers in gesso relief meant to protect and guide Nedjemankh on his journey to immortality.

The coffin was looted and smuggled out of Egypt in 2011 and was sold to the Met by a global art trafficking network, which used fraudulent documents.

"Thus far our investigation has determined that this coffin is just one of hundreds of antiquities stolen by the same multinational trafficking ring," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said.

Read more here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Boko Haram Targets Christians, Police, and Aid Workers

This screen shot appeared on Islamic State’s Amaq news site. It shows Godfrey Ali Shikagham (left) and Lawrence Duna Dacighir before their execution.

Boko Haram is one of the most violent terrorist groups in the world, killing an estimated 35,000 civilians in the past ten years.

Recently, Boko Haram murdered two Christian aid workers in Nigeria, releasing video of the killings on its website. The Christian workers were executed with gunshots from behind.

In a letter to the United Nations secretary general, a Nigerian attorney said the murders were an instance of "ethnic cleansing."

In reality, the targets of Boko Haram have consistently been unarmed Christians, police, and aid workers.

In February 2020, Islamic terrorists burned 30 people as they slept in their cars. The women and children were abducted. 

On 5 June 5 2022 terrorists murdered more than 50 people who gathered to worship on Pentecost Sunday at St. Francis Catholic Church in Ondo state.