Sunday, November 08, 2009

recently looted UCL Incantation Bowls: suppressed report findings revealed

Explaining everything I didn't in my earlier note about Lord Renfrew on UCL incantation bowls, in today's Observer, Vanessa Thorpe and James Doeser have reported on the "UK scholars linked to 'stolen' bowls of Babylon".

Lord Renfrew revealed the suppressed report findings by using his parliamentary privilege (protection from prosecution for slander, libel, breach of contract, etc.) and placing the findings in the House of Lords library. The 'secret report... exposed an apparent attempt to cover up UK academic connections to a potentially deadly trade in stolen Iraqi antiquities'.

As well as agreeing to the suppression of the report and the gagging of its authors, UCL itself evidently spoke about the report and misrepresented it. In 2007, UCL and private collector Martin Schøyen released a statement saying that 'UCL [was] pleased to announce that no claims adverse to the Schøyen Collection's right and title have been made or intimated'.

Cultural destruction and the loss of historical understanding (and cultural tourism) are not the only costs of the illicit antiquities trade. Archaeologist Professor Peter Stone observed that 'there is a strong case that the money made by illegally digging up artefacts in historic sites is being used to buy guns for the insurgent forces'.

Antiquities looting will continue as long as collectors and museums buy looted antiquities; and that illicit antiquities trade will contribute to terrorist and paramilitary violence. In Cyprus, as in Iraq, museums and collectors must stop buying looted antiquities.

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