Atif Yousafzai MARDAN:
The president of the friends of archaeology Riaz Muhammad Khan has alleged that the precious sculptures in the store of the federal archaeology department were stolen while shifting it to other building and original precious sculptures were re-placed with fake sculptures. In press statement he disclosed that more than 400 precious sculptures were disappeared when it were being shifted to the Benevolent Fund Building from the store of the Federal Archaeology Department situated in district court. He demanded of the provincial government to conduct an inquiry regarding the projects of millions of rupees for the repair of the stupas and other important ancient sites. He also expressed concern that the smugglers had Started illegal excavation in the sites at Rustam. He alleged that excavators of the federal archaeology department in the legal excavation in the Rustam sites had plundered the ancient items and destroyed the site regarding which the area people including the nazim of the area had taken out protest procession to register their complaint against illegal activities of the even legal excavators.
Berlin, Moscow Tighten Ties Through Culture
Russian President Putin and German President Rau kicked off an ambitious Russian-German cultural project in Berlin and vowed to intensify cultural exchange. But the issue of "stolen art“ remains a stumbling block.
Germany and France strengthened bilateral relations with a unique new cultural initiative on Sunday. Russian President Vladimir Putin and German President Johannes Rau formally inaugurated the "Russian- German Cultural Encounters 2003-4" -- a series of cultural events in both nations --in a lavish ceremony at the concert hall on the Gendarmenmarkt in eastern Berlin. "Getting to know each other better" On the occasion, Russian President Putin said that serious success in bilateral politics would not be possible without close cultural contacts. The German-Russian relations are free from the "burden of the cold war," he said. German President Rau said that the mammoth cultural program that would be on till the end of next year is an opportunity to "get to know each other better and learn as much as possible from the cultural heritage and contemporary culture of the other country." He said that the "foundation of our friendship" would be enriched with new elements.
Over 350 cultural treats in store
The opening ceremony began with a concert by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, directed by Michail Pletnev and with works by Ludwig van Beethoven and Peter Tschaikowsky. The concert marks the beginning of more than 350 theatre performances, operas, ballets, exhibitions as well as literary events and film screenings that will be held till the end of next year in both countries. The aim of the cultural offensive is to enable both countries to get a broader picture of each other and to get rid of prejudices that still exist on both sides.
Strong Russian flavor at German events
Some of the highlights of the German-Russian cultural extravaganza include a festival of Russian music in Saarbrücken in summer where the renowned ballet ensemble of the Moscow Bolschoi Theater will perform. The ongoing international film festival in Berlin, the Berlinale, is also showing a retrospective of Russian films that were made after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and are largely unknown in Germany. Russia will also be a focus at the famous Frankfurt book fair and the exhibition "Berlin-Moscow/Moscow-Berlin 1950-2000" will kick off in October in Berlin and make its way to Moscow in early 2004.
"Stolen art" mars German-Russian relations
But despite the optimistic and ambitious tone of the project, the lingering problem of so-called "stolen" or "looted" art still continues to hinder German-Russian cultural relations. Russian soldiers retreating from Germany after World War II are believed to have taken millions of German cultural treasures back to the Soviet Union with them as a form of reparation for their war losses. For years German churches, museums and cultural institutions -- supported by the German government -- have been fighting to get back some of their long-lost art works. In April last year, in what was regarded as a major coup for Germany, Russia agreed to return more than 100 stained glass windows to the 14th century Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church) in the eastern German city of Frankfurt on the Oder. The precious windows were confiscated by the Russians after World War II and hidden in the vaults of the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg for over 50 years.
Legislation hampering return of art works
One of the main reasons for the enduring debate that has come to be a touchy subject between the two nations is the different sets of legislation in both countries regarding the return of "looted -" or "lost art". In 1997, the Russian Parliament, the Duma, passed a law forbidding the handing back of works of art that were seized by official organizations of the Soviet state, thus putting a freeze on what is believed to be a huge cache of German art treasures still in Russia. The law passed by the Duma did not however apply to private individuals. As a result Germany was able to get back a priceless collection of paintings and drawings by Caspar David Friedrich, Rembrandt, Albrecht Dürer and other legendary artists that had been in the private collection of Russian officer and art lover Viktor Baldin. The Baldin collection has since been returned to the art museum in Bremen and by the same exception to the 1997 law, the silver collection of the princely family of Anhalt has also been returned to its rightful place in Germany.
German law incompatible
But despite those minor successes, the going has been far from smooth between Germany and Russia as far as the issue of "looted art" is concerned. Professor Wolfgang Eichwede from the East European research center at the university of Bremen told DW-WORLD, " a large part of looted German art is still missing till today and we can only guess about its whereabouts." Professor Eichwede was heavily involved in the negotiations for the return of the Baldin collection to Germany and is also engaged in the German effort to return Russian cultural treasures in Germany. He says that according to German law, the acquisition of stolen or looted art is legally valid after 10 years, provided the buyer had bought the art without being aware that it was stolen. To prove the opposite, the Professor says, is very difficult. "For example we tracked down a valuable icon from Russia that was in the possession of a German family in Berchtesgaden (southern Germany). Only through much convincing and a small compensation, could we manage to get the family to give the work of art back to Russia. That’s because German law collides clearly with international law in this respect," he said.
Slow, but sure progress
Professor Eichwede says that there has been much progress on the issue since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 and that one needs to be patient. The return of the Baldin collection is in line with Russian law and was therefore not surprising, he says. The law passed by the Duma in 1997, is a problem however. "Still I’m happy that the German side has agreed to pursue a policy that will take gradual steps in the right direction," he says. What’s needed is a pragmatic approach from both sides, according to the Professor. It's hoped that the newly-launched German-Russian cultural year would provide fresh impetus to tackle the "stolen art" problem. http://www.dw-world.de/
Museum hit by asbestos scare
By Carmelo Amalfi
ASBESTOS tests are under way at the WA Museum after staff yesterday discovered a dislodged The Francis Street building was closed to the public and staff evacuated to avoid potential contact with asbestos fibres from the exposed ceiling cavity on the floor, which houses the museum's administration and human resources sections. The James Street Diamonds to Dinosaur gallery and Beaufort Street sites are not affected. Director Gary Morgan said about 50 staff were evacuated though only a small section of the false ceiling had moved. A staff member noticed about 9am, before the museum opened, that one panel had dropped slightly. "It hadn't fallen, but you could see through into the ceiling cavity," Dr Morgan said. The panel may have been warped by high weekend temperatures.
West Australian Newspapers Limited http://www.thewest.com.au/
Fire guts church's museum
Monday, February 10th, 2003
A fire ripped through a Harlem building yesterday, destroying the museum of the Ethiopian Orthodox Coptic Church, officials said. The cause of the blaze, which erupted just after 5 p.m., was under investigation last night. Three firefighters and an elderly woman living in the building were treated for minor smoke inhalation.
The five-story building on Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. at121st St. also housed the Cathedral of the Ethiopian Orthodox Coptic Church on the first floor. George Apollo, a bishop atthe church, said there was water damage in the main sanctuary, and the fifth-floor museum appeared to be in ruins. Apollo said the museum contained Ethiopian art, precious gems and church archives. Apollo was hoping that some of the artifacts could be salvaged. Tenants and a handful of destitute people living in the church were evacuated. Amenaten Hotep, 27, a boxer, is among those who depended on the church for shelter. "I don't know yet if I've lost all my boxing equipment, but I've found refuge in the church for some time now and all my possessions are in there," Hotep said.
New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com
2 nabbed in rare-stamp theft
Oakland collector overjoyed -- FBI caught suspects in New York
Kelly St. John, Chronicle Staff Writer Sunday, February 9, 2003
The biggest theft in stamp-collecting history appears on the verge of being solved. And the Oakland stamp dealer who was its victim couldn't be happier. Four years ago, a thief swiped a $2 million collection of rare 19th century stamps from Stanley Piller's rental car in Florida. This weekend, Piller learned the FBI had arrested two men who tried to sell part of the collection to a New York gallery. Piller hasn't been told how much of the collection has been recovered or when he might get the stamps back. But Piller said he has always suspected the collection -- which includes New York State 5-cent stamps issued in 1845 and Confederate State rarities valued at $400,000 -- would turn up when the thief tried to cash in. "These stamps are like fingerprints. No two were alike," Piller said yesterday at the Grand Avenue shop he has run since 1978. "This type of material is almost impossible to sell." Ulysses Cheda and Jose Palmer were charged Friday in U.S. District Court with transporting stolen goods. They were arrested Thursday by FBI agents after they sold some stamps to a Manhattan gallery owner for $50,000, federal agents said. "A good portion of the stolen stamps were recovered," said Joe Valiquette, a spokesman for the FBI's New York field office. Authorities were tipped off to Cheda and Palmer about a month ago, said federal prosecutors in Manhattan, when they tried to sell $100,000 worth of stamps to a gallery owner who recognized them as part of Piller's stolen collection.
The gallery owner told authorities, and a special squad of FBI agents who investigate cases of stolen art, antiquities and other artifacts of high value took over the case, Valiquette said. Piller, 60, said yesterday that he has not yet been contacted by authorities, and learned of the men's arrests only when a New York reporter phoned him Friday evening. "I was surprised. I was overjoyed," he said. "What more can I say?" Piller said he did not know the suspects and could not talk about the details of the FBI investigation, which dates back to Feb. 7, 1999. It was on that day that Piller left a national stamp exhibition in Sarasota, Fla. He was driving toward a hotel in Tampa when he got lost and stopped to ask for directions. Minutes later, he returned to discover that someone had popped the trunk and taken the black case containing his best stock, which he kept in a bank vault and took out only for shows. Two other bags containing stamps of lesser value were untouched. At the time, Piller speculated that someone had watched him pack up the collection at the show and then followed him, according to articles in Linns Stamp News. The caper -- once featured on the Fox television show "Million Dollar Mysteries" -- made headlines in the normally staid world of stamp collecting. "This was a major story," said Michael DuBasso, director of the American Philatelic Foundation, a nonprofit based in Los Angeles, on Saturday. "He is one of the biggest dealers of classic stamps, and a reputable one."
The crime was the biggest stamp theft since 1998, when San Jose lawyer Jeffrey Forster had a million-dollar collection of stamps and envelopes from 1869 snatched on a New York street. Forster's collection -- insured by the same company that insured Piller's collection, the Hugh Wood Agency -- was recovered in 2000. If the Hugh Wood Agency already had compensated Piller for the total value of the collection, DuBasso said, the insurer would take possession of the recovered stamps, and it would be up to Piller to negotiate with the company if he wants the stamps back. Piller declined to discuss any settlement with Hugh Wood. A dealer who travels internationally, Piller is considered an expert in stamps and postal history, especially in "classic" U.S. stamps printed before 1870. He kept on the Internet a detailed list of the stolen stamps, nearly all of which had been photographed and documented for their authenticity. "They were rare. They were in demand. I hate to use the word unique, but some of them, that's what they are," he said.
"Most items were from $600 on up.
Some were in the tens of thousands."
Yesterday, Piller flipped open one book to show a block of 45 U.S. stamps, 30 cents each, from 1860, featuring Benjamin Franklin. They were part of the stolen collection, he said, and were valued at about $80,000 to $100,000. The first stamps in the world were produced in Great Britain in 1840, Piller said. While "semiofficial" stamps were produced in the United States as early as 1842, he said, the U.S. Postal Service didn't officially begin to issue stamps until 1847. Piller learned the stamp-dealing business from his cousin, who had a shop in New York, and began dealing when he was 13. He graduated from Cooper Union in New York with a degree in engineering and got a master's in chemical engineering from the University of Southern California. After working for several years as an engineer at Bechtel Corp. -- while continuing to collect and deal stamps as a side business -- Piller took the plunge into full-time dealing in 1976. His shop on Grand Avenue is teeming with albums, old postcards and envelopes, along with baskets of coins, buttons and other collectibles. Piller, a Raiders season-ticket holder and die-hard fan, also has adorned one upper wall with classic Raider memorabilia.
"That," he said emphatically, "is not for sale."
As for the plight of the two men now behind bars, Piller said that whoever took the rare collection made a fatal mistake by not choosing the two bags containing more common stamps. While those stamps were less valuable, they probably could have been resold without attracting attention. "If they would have taken the other bags, (the stamps) may never have been recovered," he said.
Chronicle news services contributed to this report. / E-mail Kelly St. John at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Protecting Ancient History in Iraq
Archaeologists Worry Antiquities, Artifacts Will be Lost in War
Feb. 10, 2003 -- With a U.S. invasion of Iraq looming, archaeologists and art historians are growing increasingly concerned over what will become of ancient monuments and artifacts in the "cradle of civilization" when bombs begin falling. They're also worried about looting of ancient artifacts after a war ends, NPR's Jason DeRose reports. The Archaeological Institute of America is urging the Department of Defense to consider historic sites in Iraq when planning U.S. military strategy. In a letter to the Pentagon, the AIA expresses its "profound concern about the potential for damage to monuments, sites, antiquities, and cultural institutions as a result of war." Six thousand years ago, the place known today as Iraq was Mesopotamia, which rose along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. "It's the cradle of civilization," says McGuire Gibson, who teaches Mesopotamian archaeology at the University of Chicago. "It's the place where we get the first cities, the first writing, the first thoughts about what's man's relationship to God. It's the first sort of ideas about death. It's the first recorded literature that we have." Gibson and other archaeologists are quick to say their first concern if war comes to Iraq is the loss of human life. But with nearly 100,000 archaeological sites at stake, they're also concerned about the loss of human history, DeRose reports. Gibson says the 1991 Gulf War literally chipped away at a priceless past. One example is the massive 4,000-year-old Ziggurat at Ur, in southern Iraq. The temple pyramid was hit by at least 400 shells that took out "big chunks" from the structure, Gibson says. The future of the 2,000-year- old ruin at Ctesiphon -- just outside Baghdad -- is a chief concern of Zaineb Bahrani, who teaches at Columbia University. The site includes the remains of a palace with one of the oldest, tallest brick archways in the world. It was indirectly damaged in 1991 and Bahrani says another nearby bombing could cause the arch to collapse.
Monuments aren't the only potential targets of concern. Elizabeth Stone, an archaeologist at the State University of New York at Stoney Brook, says cuneiform tablets provided legal records -- and personal stories -- from the ancient past. One of the tablets she translated was a divorce case "where a guy had married an heiress where he was accusing her of being a nag. She was accusing him of never having slept with her," Stone says. Records such as the divorce tablet are made of unbaked mud. The weight of a tank or the shock of a bomb can turn these fragile artifacts to dust, DeRose reports. However, some art historians and archaeologists are more concerned about what will come after a military campaign, when they say social and economic chaos will most likely lead to looting. John Russell at the Massachusetts College of Art cites the palace of the Assyrian ruler Sennacherib at Nineveh in northern Iraq. Prior to the 1991 Gulf War, Russell visited the palace of the king who plotted the siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. In the palace, Russell photographed 2,700-year- old sculptural reliefs depicting religious offerings, laborers and death. In the mid-1990s, Russell began seeing pieces of the same sculptures being offered on the art market. A Department of Defense spokesperson says an internal Web site has been set up to help military planners avoid historic sites in Iraq. He says the United States also plans to help the post-war Iraqi government establish protections for cultural property. But with tens of thousands of archaeological sites throughout Iraq, Boston University archaeologist Paul Zimansky doesn't hold out much hope about protecting this ancient culture. "The Mesopotamians themselves were aware of the impermanence of everything they did," Zimansky says. "And there's a deep pessimism that runs through the literature of Mesopotamia. And perhaps that's carrying over to the modern day -- that everything does seem to turn back into mud."
AIA Urges Protection of Iraq's Archaeological Heritage
As the prospect for war in Iraq gains momentum, archaeologists have become increasingly concerned about the fate of that country’s archaeological sites, antiquities, and cultural property. In the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, the Archaeological Institute of America passed a Resolution Regarding War and the Destruction of Antiquities (PDF),
which urges all governments to honor the terms of the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (http://www.icomos.org/hague/hague.convention.html).
As the oldest and largest organization in North America devoted to the study and preservation of the world’s cultural heritage, the Archaeological Institute of America expresses its profound concern about the potential for damage to monuments, sites, antiquities, and cultural institutions as a result of war. Iraq, the land of Mesopotamia located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, is the home of some of the world’s oldest and most significant archaeological and cultural sites. One of the areas of initial agriculture and animal domestication, Iraq was the center of the development of cuneiform writing on clay tablets in ca. 3200 B.C. Numerous archaeological sites relating to Biblical history and the Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian Empires are located in Iraq, including Babylon, Ur, Ashur, Nineveh and Nimrud. Iraq’s museums, particularly the national museum in Baghdad and the regional museum in Mosul, are repositories for countless irreplaceable sculptures, inscribed tablets, reliefs, cylinder seals and other cultural objects that record this history. The AIA therefore urges all governments, working in accordance with the terms of the Hague Convention, in concert with recognized experts in the scholarly community, to develop and implement carefully-researched programs to protect ancient sites, monuments, antiquities, and cultural institutions in the case of war. The AIA also offers the expertise of its members to assist all governments in undertaking these programs. In addition, in the aftermath of war, the Archaeological Institute of America calls on all governments in a position to act to provide the necessary resources, human and financial, to assess the damage done by war to cultural property and to develop and implement appropriate plans for necessary repairs and restoration. In the case of the looting of antiquities and works of art, detailed plans developed by trained experts should be made for the proper repatriation or restitution of such cultural artifacts. It should also be recognized that following the 1991 Gulf War, archaeological sites and museums in Iraq were looted on a large scale, with stolen antiquities appearing on the art markets in Western Europe and the United States. We therefore call upon the appropriate governments to take reasonable actions to prevent such looting in the aftermath of war. This includes assisting with security, as well as rebuilding, of museums and sites, providing training for professional staff. Academically- degreed staff who are now working in neighboring countries must be brought back; guards for archaeological sites and overseers who are responsible for antiquities in larger administrative areas must be rehired or replaced. It also means maintaining and enforcing the strong legal framework within Iraq that today serves to protect its archaeological heritage through, among other provisions, state ownership of sites and archaeological objects. Every effort should be made to ensure that any new economic development and exploration that occurs in Iraq will be undertaken with sensitivity and concern for the preservation of archaeological sites and historic monuments.
The AIA is particularly concerned that in the aftermath of war, Iraqi cultural objects may be removed from museums and archaeological sites and placed on the international art market. The removal of such objects would denude the national and local museums of Iraq and cause irreparable losses to some of the world’s most significant archaeological sites. This cultural heritage is of great value to the people of Iraq (as well as people throughout the world) and plays an important role within civil society. The preservation of this heritage is also of long-term economic benefit to the nation and to the region. The actions of all governments in preserving this heritage during a post-war reconstruction phase should be consistent with the terms and spirit of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, of which there are ninety-six States Parties, including the United States, Iraq, the United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Canada and Australia.