REPATRIATION - Christmas 2015

1. MUNCIE, INDIANA—Operation Hidden Idols, carried out by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), has recovered a Festival Bronze of Shiva and Parvati that dates to the Chola Period (A.D. 860-1279) that had been purchased by the David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State University from a New York City gallery. Special agents from HSI’s cultural property unit traced the trail of false provenances that had been provided by the gallery for the sculpture back to when it had been looted from a temple in southern India in 2004. “HSI’s long-term goal is to reduce the incentive for this kind of criminal activity. Our partnerships with institutions like Ball State University are instrumental to this effort. We hope that other collectors, institutions, and museums will see this surrender as a successful example of a way to move forward when dealing with artifacts that might be of concern,” Glenn Sorge, acting special agent in charge for HSI New York, said in a press release. The bronze will serve as potential evidence in the case against the art dealer. It is anticipated that it will then be repatriated with at least six other Chola bronzes recovered by HSI to India. To read more about archaeology in that country, go to "India's Village of the Dead." More Information...http://www.archaeology.org/news/3890-151118-bronze-shiva-parvati

2. HONOLULU, HAWAII—A totem pole stolen by actor John Barrymore in 1931 that later ended up as a yard decoration for actor Vincent Price was returned to Alaska tribal members on Thursday. The Associated Press reports that the stolen pole was one of more than 100 that once stood in the old village of Tuxecan on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska, which was inhabited by the Tlingit people.Barrymore — grandfather of actress Drew Barrymore — took the approximately 40-foot-tall totem pole from an unoccupied village during a yacht trip along the Alaska coast in 1931. The totem pole has carved images of a killer whale, a raven, an eagle and a wolf, and the crew sawed it in three pieces. Barrymore later displayed it in his garden.
When the actor died, horror flick star Price and his wife bought the totem pole, which they then stuck in their yard as decoration, too. In 1981, the Prices donated it to the Honolulu Museum of Art.
Officials at the museum didn't know the totem pole was stolen, and after the top section was briefly displayed, the pole was moved to the museum's climate-controlled basement. While standing in front of his tribe's totem pole, Jonathan Rowan speaks about its significance at the Honolulu Museum of Art on Thursday. The totem pole was carved by the ancestors of the Tlingit tribe. Rowan is a tribe member from Klawock, Alaska.
While standing in front of his tribe's totem pole, Jonathan Rowan speaks about its significance at the Honolulu Museum of Art on Thursday. The totem pole was carved by the ancestors of the Tlingit tribe. Rowan is a tribe member from Klawock, Alaska. Marco Garcia/AP
University of Alaska, Anchorage professor Steve Langdon, who has long researched the object, became interested in the piece when he saw a picture of Price standing next the pole. He told AP: "It was totally out of place," he recalled. "Here's this recognizable Hollywood figure in a backyard estate with a totem pole ... that was surrounded by cactus." After researching he found that the totem pole was used for burials, and before Barrymore put it in his garden, he had removed the remains of a man that were inside it. In 2013, Langdon went to Honolulu to examine it, with permission from tribal leaders. This set in motion a repatriation process funded by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and on Thursday the piece was returned to tribal members. More Information... http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/23/451069354/totem-pole-stolen-84-years-ago-by-actor-john-barrymore-goes-home

3. PARIS, FRANCE—PARIS (AP) — A nearly 3,000-year-old carving stolen more than four decades ago from a remote area of southern Mexico has been recovered in France. The Olmec carving dating to around 900 B.C. had been chipped off the rock face sometime between the arrival of an archaeological team in 1968 and 1972, when the team returned to the area. It resurfaced recently in France under unclear circumstances.John Clark, a professor of archaeology at Brigham Young University who learned about the find Thursday, said the carved sculpture showed the extent of the Olmec's reach in an area of Chiapas better known for ties to the Maya. In the decades since the theft, he said, scholars have made due with a replica created by examining archive photos of the piece. The Olmec are best known for their enormous carved heads and are considered one of the founding cultures of Mesoamerica.
Dominique Michelet, a French archaeologist at the CNRS research center involved in recovering the piece, said Thursday the bas relief is believed to represent a priest.Clark said chunks of the cut-out stone were missing, but it appeared largely intact. "There's no image like this anywhere else. You can see he's wearing some sort of mask over his face. His clothes are unlike anything we've seen," Clark said. "There's just enough clues in some of the clothing detail and the face detail to show it's Olmec." He said scholars first learned about the stone carving from Germans traveling through the region in the early 20th century. Then the archaeological team arrived in 1968 to document it and search the area for more artifacts. The next time they returned, there was a gash in the rock face. "It's a real problem in the Maya lowlands. A lot of them show up in the art market mostly in Europe. I'm surprised it was given back," Clark said.Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History said in a statement the carving was "secretly extracted from the rock face in the early 1970s and illegally taken out of the country." Michelet wouldn't say how it was found. It will be returned to Mexico for restoration and public display. More Information... http://bigstory.ap.org/article/bde9359c8f094d1e84df73add8094371/ancient-carving-stolen-decades-ago-mexico-found-france

4.  NEW YORK AAMD Issues Safe Haven Protocols for Art from Countries in Crisis October 29, 2015.The Association of Art Museum Directors’ (AAMD) newly issued Protocols For Safe Havens For Works Of Cultural Significance From Countries In Crisis urge international museum actions to protect artistic heritage at risk of loss and destruction. The AAMD protocols stress security, preservation in museum safe havens, international access, and returning objects only when it is safe to do so. The protocols thereby run counter to current US government policies, which prioritize repatriation, even to hostile regimes in countries currently in a state of war.
The Protocols begin, “Protecting works of cultural significance in danger of damage, destruction or looting as a result of war, terrorism or natural disasters is the responsibility of everyone and especially of institutions whose mission is to protect, conserve and study the artistic heritage of human kind.”
According to the AAMD, member museums can offer technical and professional help to preserve
collections in countries where crises threaten the security of cultural heritage, but in situations where in situ assistance is not practical, AAMD museums and other cultural institutions outside the areas of crisis can offer safe havens to works in danger until they can be safely returned. The AAMD notes that objects might require specialized treatment or care that is unavailable nearby. Therefore museums in North America and around the world should offer to preserve and protect threatened cultural property.
The AAMD notes that providing a safe haven removes threatened works from the marketplace (legal or illegal), preserves their physical integrity, and enables essential documentation to record these works for posterity. The AAMD statement identifies the following as possible depositors of artworks for safe haven: museums and governmental entities inside countries in crisis, US government authorities who have seized works on entry to the US, and private individuals, companies, or organizations who have come into possession of artworks.
The protocols call for action to inventory and document the condition of works prior to movement, if possible; safe transportation, preferably paid by the depositor; storage comparable to that which an AAMD museum applies to works in its own collection, and conservation for works in need of immediate stabilization.
Works should be inventoried, digitally documented, and treated as loaned works typically would be. Museums should publish the documentation on their own websites, on the AAMD Object Registry, and appropriate international websites.Museums should grant scholarly access to the works as they would for objects in their own collections. With the consent of depositors, museums may exhibit works stored for safe haven and all information about them should be made available to the public, along with educational information on preserving heritage.
Finally, the AAMD notes that return of objects should take place as soon as is practicable and that objects might be returned to the depositor, the then owner, the government of the affected area, or to the government of the United States, among others. The AAMD urges compliance with all applicable law in returning objects and the avoidance of potential ownership disputes. http://committeeforculturalpolicy.org/aamd-issues-safe-haven-protocols-for-countries-in-crisis/

5. WASHINGTON DC Ancient Tablets Seized from Hobby Lobby October 28, 2015.  The Daily Beast has identified the Hobby Lobby corporation as the destination for a shipment of cuneiform tablets seized by US Customs in 2011. The Green family are owners of the corporation Hobby Lobby and known as some of the most prolific collectors of ancient artifacts in the US today. The Greens are presently constructing a private museum in Washington, D.C., the Museum of the Bible, to house their collection of approximately 40,000 artifacts. Hobby Lobby is also well-known as the prevailing party in the US Supreme Court decision, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which granted the company an exemption from the Affordable Healthcare Act mandate to provide certain forms of contraception to its employees.
According to reporters Candida Moss and Joel Baden of the Daily Beast, an investigation by US federal law enforcement has been ongoing since the 2011 attempted importation. Museum of the Bible CEO Cary Summers acknowledged that there was an ongoing investigation, but told the Daily Beast that the issue was simply one of incomplete paperwork. Some in the media have speculated that importation may have been faulted for improper paperwork (the shipment is said to have originated in Israel, and been identified as “handcrafted clay tiles,” but the tablets appear to be ancient Syrian or Iraqi), or for a possible undervaluation on the import or export papers. No information regarding the matter has so far been released by federal authorities. More Information... http://committeeforculturalpolicy.org/ancient-tablets-seized-from-hobby-lobby/

6. PARIS France Proposes Safe Harbor for Syrian Antiquities. November 19, 2015. French President Francois Hollande proposed bringing Syrian antiquities to France for safekeeping, in an address to delegates at the 38th UNESCO Conference in Paris on November 17. Hollande’s proposal was larger in scope and in the protections offered antiquities that of the Association of Art Museum Directors’ “safe harbor” proposals issued in October 2015. ( See AAMD Issues Safe Haven Protocols for Art from Countries in Crisis, Oct. 29, 2015) Even the more modest AAMD proposal has drawn criticism from archaeological hardliners, who have misrepresented the AAMD proposal as “museum acquisition of looted goods.” Hollande spoke just a week after the violent attacks by extremists in Paris that killed 130 people. He said that the UNESCO conference was a symbol of the unity of cultures, and that it stood counter to the cowardly and despicable attacks of terrorists. He drew attention to the fact that each attack took place at a venue where people of varied cultures came together for enjoyment: a Thai restaurant, a concert by American musicians, and an international football match. France should, he said, show its commitment to liberty, creativity and the dialog of cultures. He said that the war against jihadist terror was not a war of civilizations. More.. http://committeeforculturalpolicy.org/france-proposes-safe-harbor-for-syrian-antiquities/