"EU Parliament Holocaust Restitution Proposal Threatens Circulation of Ancient Art"


A European Parliament Resolution entitled “Cross-border restitution claims of works of art and cultural goods looted in armed conflicts and wars” (2017/2023(INI) recommended major changes to EU laws on January 17, 2019. Press coverage has focused on provisions that exempt Holocaust art returns from statutes of limitation, develop cataloging systems, fund provenance research, define ‘looted’ art and establish an EU-based database for it – all potentially positive steps.

However, implementing other elements of the EU proposals could severely limit sales of ancient and ethnographic art and non-European antiques. What the EU Resolution actually seeks is to restrict import and trade in categories of art and cultural goods far broader than the title implies – virtually the entire antiques and antiquities markets – and to enable ‘restitution’ to countries of origin in adherence to the principles of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on the Return of Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects.

The EU Resolution does not state specifically which ‘principles’ of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention should direct EU policy, but it does imply that the EU should enforce other nations’ blanket export control laws and accept those nations’ definitions of what constitutes cultural patrimony. (In the U.S. under the 1983 Cultural Property Implementation Act, the U.S. Congress chose to make an independent decision about which cultural objects are threatened by pillage, and barred specific types of objects from import.) The 1995 UNIDROIT Convention places the burden of proof on the possessor of an object to show that he “neither knew nor ought reasonably to have known at the time of acquisition that the object had been illegally exported” (Art. 6.1), regardless of how the possessor acquired the object, for example, as an inheritance, as the latest in a long line of purchasers, or, in the case of a museum, as the recipient of a donation.

The EU Resolution’s scope is expanded by conflating the trade in art without documented export permissions from countries of origin, with the Nazi looting of Jewish-owned artworks. The EU Resolution states that, “according to Interpol, the black market for works of art is becoming as lucrative as those for drugs, weapons and counterfeit goods.” However, it neither dates nor cites the source for this Interpol claim, nor does it identify which works of art it is talking about – an important point, since the market for antiquities is a tiny fraction of the art market as a whole, being well under 1%. The antiquities trade, in which hundreds of thousands of artworks have circulated over many decades without documentation of the original export, is seen as equal to the wartime looting of cultural heritage. “Looted” and “illicit” are the terms applied to objects that have been traded without documented permission for export.

For example, The Resolution states as one of its premises that, “80 to 90 % of global antiquities sales are of goods of illicit origin.”

Yet very few sales of global antiquities are of objects that have recently entered the market. Within the market, a traceable ownership history showing that an object has not been recently taken out of a source country substitutes for an export permit. Such permits were rarely issued in any case, and if they were, are very unlikely to have been retained for decades. The importance of having a documented ownership history is shown by the fact that objects without it not only have the lowest market value, being virtually unsaleable in the U.S. and Europe, but are the least desirable to collectors and unacceptable as gifts to museums.

The EU Resolution is said to be an emergency measure in light of a supposed increase in looting for the Western market, stating that, “valuable artworks, sculptures and archaeological artefacts are being sold and imported into the EU from certain non-EU countries, with the profits potentially being used to finance terrorist activities.”

While the EU Resolution does recognize that, “further investigation is needed to shed light on the dark field of illicit trade in cultural property and to obtain better information about its scale, structure and size.” Unfortunately it takes as its example the ILLICID Project in Germany, which is focused on documenting financial flows in the field of organized crime and terrorism, rather than examining the realities of the art trade as a whole.

After years of unsupported claims in the media about Middle Eastern looting for profit by ISIS in the hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars, it has been accepted by many authorities that such claims were unjustified.

Even in 2016, when ISIS was at the height of its powers, the Dutch National Police, Central Investigation Unit, War Crimes Unit reported in Cultural Property, War Crimes and Islamic State:

“These claims are largely not supported by available government reports. (International and National) Customs Authorities have not reported growing influxes of illegal cultural property over their borders. Law enforcement agencies have not reported growing arrests of criminal art dealers or seizures of illegal cultural property from Syria and Iraq. Policy papers and studies do not present evidence that the illegal (online) art market flourishes and is overwhelmed with Syrian or Iraqi artefacts. Most museums have been evacuated and collections were hidden in secret storages, to prevent destruction and plunder. Media reports are rarely based on primary sources but rather copy each other’s headlines, leading to over exaggeration and unfounded estimates of IS revenues. Despite the lack of evidence for a large-scale illegal trade network benefiting IS, governments stress the importance of fighting this assumed vital source of income for IS.”

Most recently, the January 15, 2019, twenty-third report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team pursuant to resolutions 1526 (2004)and 2253 (2015), states:

“82.Despite systematic consultation with Member States, the Monitoring Team has been unable to establish that ISIL ever generated significant funds from human slavery or sexual violence, although it was certainly massively engaged in such crimes on a basis internal to the so-called “caliphate”. Member States also broadly share the analysis that ISIL did not systematically or fully exploit the funding potential of looting and trading in antiquities and cultural goods. Nevertheless, it will not be possible to draw firm conclusions on this until more is known about what was taken, and until enhanced detection and enforcement efforts have yielded more information.”

Coming from the UN, that is a dramatic change in assessment, but the EU Commission and Parliament do not appear to have got the message.

The recently adopted Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the introduction and the import of cultural goods alleged that there was a flourishing trade in antiquities supporting terrorism, these claims were not even supported by its own research, commissioned with Deloitte. In perpetuating this media myth, this EU regulation approved in December 2018 [Update: and adopted by the European Parliament on March 12, 2019] states that, “Looting of archaeological sites has always happened, but has now reached an industrial scale.”

These premises, however unsupported by fact, make clear that the EU’s January 17, 2019 Resolution is the result of continuing political pressure within in the European Parliament to eliminate the European antiquities market through a variety of legislative and policy vehicles, including by urging passage of new laws whose documentation requirements will simply be impossible for dealers and collectors to provide.

The Resolution makes note of the horrors of Nazi and other looting in wartime and the destruction of monuments by Daesh (ISIS) and government forces in the Middle East. It then enumerates the international and European conventions and laws enacted to halt these atrocities, from the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict to the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, and the European Parliament’s Action Plan against terrorist financing of 2 February 2016 (COM(2016)0050). It states that only 1000-2000 artworks have been restituted to Jewish former owners since the 1998 Washington Conference, and that some 100,000 Nazi-looted artworks are still missing.

Using the example of the acceptance of principles of restitution to individuals who lost art during the Holocaust, the Resolution urges that similar principles should apply regarding the restitution of cultural objects to source nations. Curiously, however, the EU Resolution fails to mention the seizure of Jewish individual and communal property by Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) nations during forced expulsions of Jewish populations after the creation of Israel and the Six-Day War. Nor does it address the demands by members of expelled Jewish and Christian communities of rights to their art and artifacts, which have been nationalized by Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Algeria, and other MENA nations today.

The EU Resolution states that currently, claims for artworks are hampered by “the expiration of post-war restitution laws, the non-retroactivity of conventional norms, the lack of any definition of looted ‘art’, statute of limitations provisions on claims or the provisions on adverse possession and good faith.”

It acknowledges that UNESCO, museums and collectors are doing provenance research in order to return works to their owners, but regrets that there has been insufficient follow-up within the EU system to develop, “civil and procedural law rules, provenance research, cataloguing systems, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and the value of creating a cross-border coordination administrative authority.”

The EU Resolution calls on the European Commission to “protect, support and encourage cross-border restitution claims of cultural assets displaced and misappropriated as a result of state-sanctioned acts of plunder or looted during armed conflicts.”

There are some obvious contradictions within the EU Resolution. It states that EU legislative action should apply only to future transactions and not apply retroactively, while at the same time urging EU Member States to “harmonise the rules on provenance research and to incorporate some of the basic principles of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on stolen or illegally exported cultural objects.” UNIDROIT allows states to claim objects as unlawfully exported 75 years or more after the fact. At the same time, the EU Regulation also “welcomes” the EU regulations on import of cultural goods which came into force in December 2018, and which will deny EU import licenses to cultural goods without proof of lawful export from source countries unless the export took place prior to 1972.

The EU Parliament has thus effectively categorized all art without documented history of lawful export as “illicit.” Yet vast numbers of antiques and antiquities have entered global commerce since the 18th century.

The range of objects that would be covered if this proposal is adopted is vast. Almost all art-source nations outside of Europe and the US adopted laws in the late 20th or early 21st century nationalizing all art over 50-100 years of age and prohibiting its export. Few took actions to actually curb exports, and even fewer created export permitting systems except for restoration or temporary loans.

Regardless of the date of export, very few artworks and antiquities still have paperwork showing the terms of export in sufficient detail to meet EU standards for legal export. Egypt, the source of the largest number of antiquities in circulation, allowed legal export until 1983, but did not provide documentation sufficient to identify individual objects, merely certifying to boxes or cases of antiquities.

Together with the EU regulations adopted in December 2018, the January 17 Resolution institutionalizes myths about the art trade unsupported by evidence and discounted by the EU’s own investigations and research. It is regrettable that the positive steps urged by the EU in regard to return of Holocaust items and artworks looted in conflicts are undermined by its inaccuracies regarding the historical circulation of antiquities and antiques, and its unjustified characterization of public and private collections and the art trade as 80-90% illicit.


"UK to Change Treasure Act – New Restrictions Proposed"


The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced plans to modify Britain’s 1996 Treasure Act to “allow more artefacts to be acquired by local and national museums and put on public display.” The changes include classing objects worth over £10,000 as Treasure, regardless of the material of which they are made.

Britain’s ancient common law of treasure trove gave the Crown all finds of gold or silver that had been deliberately hidden, where the original owner intended to return and collect it, but could not be found.

Britain’s 1996 Treasure Act modernized the common law: it required finders to report gold and silver objects over 300 years of age, for which no one claimed ownership. The Treasure Act also made finders and landowners eligible for a reward if objects went to a museum.

The Treasure Act works in combination with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), run since 2006 by the British Museum (in Wales, the Amgueddfa Cymru, the National Museum Wales manages finds). The PAS is the world’s first country-wide proactive mechanism for recording archaeological finds, including accidental discoveries and finds by metal-detectorists and amateur archeologists. (In England and Wales, metal detectoring is legal if regulations are followed. In Northern Ireland, it is illegal to search for archaeological objects without permission.)

The proposed changes to the Treasure Act were prompted by an extraordinary number of large and important finds in recent years, including objects that were exceedingly valuable, but which did not fit the law’s definition of treasure, which still rested on old-fashioned notions about treasure meaning gold and silver. One such found object, an exceptionally fine 1,700 year old Roman era bronze helmet was found by a metal detectorist in 2010. Because the helmet was made of a copper alloy it could not be considered Treasure under the law and was sold to a private buyer for 2.3 million pounds.

Government officials say that the scheme’s success requires changes to be made. The UK earlier required metal detectorists to report finds, but compliance was low. By incentivizing reporting through PAS, the number of reported Treasure finds had increased 1500% and a more efficient process was needed to manage them.

The British Museum’s Michael Lewis told the Telegraph that the change, “offers a chance to strengthen the Act in terms of law enforcement and to further normalise the treasure process, recognising we now have a network of archaeologists across England responsible for logging public finds, including treasure.”

According to the publication by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, “Revising the definition of treasure in the Treasure Act 1996 and revising the related codes of practice,” while the vast majority of metal detectorists and other who find archaeological materials are in compliance with the law, a few “unscrupulous” individuals fail to report and sell items in online venues. Under the existing law, they cannot be sanctioned.

Since officials believe that the current law is being followed, the proposed amendment to require a permit for all digging by professional archaeologists as well as amateurs and metal detectorists could add significantly to the government’s administrative burden and discourage the thousands of hobbyists who have voluntarily contributed data to the PAS scheme, without hampering the “unscrupulous” individuals who would likely fail to apply for a permit in the first place.

The government is seeking commentary from individuals and organizations interested in the treasure process, including but not limited to “archaeologists, coroners, curators, Finds Liaison Officers and metal detectorists.” Comments will be accepted until April 30, 2019. The survey can be answered online, by downloading the form, or by email. Commenters will find the written report very useful and should review them first. In addition, the government suggests that commenters read The Treasure Act 1996: Code of Practice. For questions, the contact address is treasure@culture.gov.uk.

In summary, under current law, the Portable Antiquities Scheme website defines Treasure as:

Any metallic object, other than a coin, provided that at least 10 per cent by weight of metal is precious metal (that is, gold or silver) and that is at least 300 years old when found. If the object is of prehistoric date it will be Treasure provided any part of it is precious metal.

Any group of two or more metallic objects of any composition of prehistoric date that come from the same find.

Two or more coins from the same find provided they are at least 300 years old when found and contain 10 per cent gold or silver (if the coins contain less than 10 per cent of gold or silver there must be at least ten of them).

Any object that would previously have been treasure trove, but does not fit the categories above. This would be objects that are less than 300 years old, that are made substantially of gold or silver, that have been deliberately hidden with the intention of recovery and whose owners or heirs are unknown.

What are the proposed changes?

The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published its proposed changes as a Consultation that includes the survey questions for the public. The stated aim of the Act is to preserve significant finds for public collections. The proposed changes are to make the treasure process more efficient and rational – and to ensure that a workable system exists for the future.

Key proposed changes:

Adding a regulation applying in England and Wales similar to the one pertaining already Northern Ireland under which archaeological digging of any sort (both by professional archaeologists and others) is only allowed by permit.

The Act would change the date to which the Treasure Act applies from 300 + years old sliding date to pre-1714, the date that the first Hanoverian king, George, came to the throne.

A second class of Treasure would be objects that meet the age criterion (i.e. are at least 200 years old when found) and have a value of over £10,000. Changing archaeological objects of any material to Treasure means that a found object becomes Crown property. However, a reward would still be paid based upon its market value.

Another class of Treasure would be single gold coins dated between AD 43, the beginning of the Roman period, and 1344, the year that Edward III successfully re-introduced English gold coinage.

Inclusion of base-metal Roman objects as Treasure if two or more are found in a closed deposit.

Exemption of objects from classification as Treasure if found in Church of England contexts, for example, moveable articles connected to cathedrals, churches and land, including burial grounds

Creating a duty on a person who acquires a find that they reasonably believe to be treasure to report it to the coroner. This would create a criminal offense of failing to notify the coroner where a possible treasure finds has been acquired and there has been no investigation.

The finder has a duty to report possible treasure within 14 days where there are reasonable grounds to believe that an article is treasure.

The inquest process would be simplified, especially if no museum expressed an interest in the object(s).

Placing narrow time limits for museums to express an interest (28 days), hold off inquests until time for interest has passed, for interested parties to provide further information on valuation (28 days after parties are informed of provisional valuation).

Establish new rules defining treasure status (for example, “a number of extremely rare Roman millefiori glass bowls were only declared treasure because they were found with a bronze vessel with a very small silver component that fell within the definition of treasure in the Act. For this reason a partial hoard cannot be disclaimed until after it has been declared treasure.”)

Other changes are practical measures, such as that the Treasure Secretariat should screen lower value finds to avoid situation where cost of valuing the finds averages £115 per find, but in some cases the valuation is only £5 or £10.

With enactment of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, or PAS, almost twenty years ago, the UK established a system that benefited both finders of objects and archaeologists. Every find is photographed, digitally recorded, and made publicly available on the PAS online database so the data is a valuable educational and research resource.

The PAS set rules for notification and documentation, gave government archaeologists the ability to excavate finds, and supported the Treasure Act by increasing opportunities for museums to acquire archaeological finds for the public benefit. The PAS’s publicly available databases houses well over a million objects.

Under the current system, if someone discovers archaeological objects, it must be reported to a local Finds Liaison Officer and a Report is made. Then it is offered to the local museum for acquisition. If a museum does not want it, then it is returned to the finder. If it is deemed to be treasure, then it becomes the property of the Crown.

Objects are not purchased by museums, but a valuation is placed on the object for establishing a reward to the finder. First an independent expert valuer and then a Treasure Valuation Committee at the British Museum will value it. An invoice is issued to the British Museum and payment is supposed to be made to the finder within 4 months.

Past PAS finds included The Frome (Somerset) Hoard of 52,503 coins, a hoard hidden in 290 AD, one of 500 Romans coin hoards discovered since the PAS scheme began in 1997. PAS data has been used in hundreds of research projects, including about 100 PhDs. It also encourages active public involvement in archaeology. Community-based volunteers assist in recording finds, in events and exhibitions to raise awareness of the educational value of archaeological context, and promoting protection of the local historic environment.

Government urges widespread participation in the Consultation

The UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has urged all interested persons and organizations to weigh in with comments on the proposals. With its Portable Antiquities Scheme, and the Treasure Act, the UK has developed the only functional and eminently successful system in the world for bringing amateurs and hobbyists, professional archaeologists, historians treasure hunting metal detectorists, and the communities together to document and preserve sites and finds for the public benefits. It is a positive model for preserving heritage around the world. If success has brought out practical and legal elements of the scheme that need improvement, changes may result in an even better and more workable model for the future.

The consultation is open until April 30, 2019 and can be accessed on this page: Open consultation:

Revising the definition of treasure in the Treasure Act 1996 and revising the related codes of practice


"UNESCO Exposed! World Heritage Committee Meeting in Baku Will Be Hosted By Cultural Destroyers"


“There are no Armenian graves in the territory of Nakhchivan. This is just an Armenian fabrication.” Azeri Parliamentarian Rafael Huseynov, Azerbaijan State News Agency, 1/24/2008.

It was December 2005. The greatest collection in the world of the Armenian Christian carved stone stele called khachkars stood within the ancient cemetery at Djulfa in Nakhichevan, in Azerbaijan. A few thousand feet away, just across the border in Iran, the Prelate of Northern Iran’s Armenian Church wept as he recited a service for the people who had been buried there for centuries, watching as Azeri soldiers used cranes and sledgehammers to destroy the ancient graveyard. Many of the thousands of intricately carved, tall, standing cross-stones, considered one of the most extraordinary monuments to Armenian heritage, were over a thousand years old.

The story of the destruction of thousands of cross-stones and 89 churches – the entire Christian heritage of the region of Nakhichevan – is detailed in A Regime Conceals Its Erasure of Indigenous Armenian Culture, by Simon Maghakyan and Sarah Pickman, just published in Hyperallergic and reported on by The Guardian.

Many readers’ first reaction to the shocking report on Azerbaijan’s destruction of this world-renowned heritage site, was to ask, why didn’t UNESCO stop them?

Unfortunately, that’s not what UNESCO does. The world thinks of UNESCO as focused on protecting international heritage for the benefit of all mankind. Increasingly, however, UNESCO defers completely to national governments over cultural heritage. It encourages demands for return of long-held objects from other nations, and at the same time, fails to insist on protections for cultural heritage within their boundaries – even, in the case of Azerbaijan, turns a blind eye when a government destroys it.

UNESCO’s support for national over international interests and the rights of governments to control cultural heritage will certainly be on show in June and July 2019, when UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee will meet in Baku, the capital of oil-rich Azerbaijan. Newly elected World Heritage Committee Chairman, Abulfaz Garayev, who is also Azerbaijan’s Minister of Culture, will chair the organization’s 43rd session.

UNESCO has never held Azerbaijan’s leaders accountable for the complete destruction of its Orthodox Christian heritage within the region of Nakhichevan. Instead, UNESCO seems eager to accept Azerbaijan’s rewriting of history. But the 2005 annihilation of Djulfa’s magnificent cross-stones is a cultural crime that neither UNESCO nor the Azeri government can deny.

The historic sites most recently demolished by government forces in Nakhichevan have already been subjected to a long history of conflict. Once known as the autonomous Republic of Nakhijevan, the region sits between Armenia, Iran and Turkey. It was considered an Armenian province when it was annexed by Czarist Russia in 1826, and then delivered to Azerbaijan in 1921 in the Turkish-Russian Treaty of Moscow. In 1919, massacres of the Armenian population and forced removals took place during the Armenian Genocide.

Throughout the 20th century, vandalism and destruction of the cultural heritage of opposing ethnic groups has occurred in both Azerbaijan and Armenia. The ancient cemetery located at Djulfa was first pillaged in 1903 to clear a path for railroad construction, destroying nearly 6,000 khachkars. That ‘cultural crime’ was not Azeri in origin; it took place under Russian Czarist administration. The apparently arbitrary allocation of lands to Armenia and Azerbaijan at the end of the Soviet period was typical of Soviet thinking, when lines were often drawn to deliberately divide populations.

A multi-ethnic state during the Soviet period, Azerbaijan had a population of almost 500,000 Armenians in 1974. Internal and cross-border strife with Armenia during the Nagorno-Karabakh war was extremely violent, resulting in thousands of civilian as well as military deaths on both sides. Today, almost all the remaining Armenians live in the breakaway republic of Nogorno-Karabakh.

The Azeri government’s policy of deliberate destruction of the cultural record of Christian culture in Nakhichevan did not begin until the last decade of the 20th century. In 1998, when the Azeri government ordered the first massive destruction of the khachkars, UNESCO delayed acting until 2002, after several thousand had been destroyed. But the protest was weak and UNESCO allowed Djulfa to be forgotten.

Then, in December 2005, UNESCO again failed to act as Azeri military descended on the Djulfa cemetery, taking a week to smash every one of the remaining khachkars with sledgehammers, load the fragments onto trucks, and dump them into the river that marked the international border. Within a few months, the ancient cemetery had been completely flattened and made into a firing range for soldiers. Despite pleas from the Armenian government and international non-governmental organizations, UNESCO did not speak up to stop this final destruction of the last of Nakhichevan’s khachkars.

As Azeri cultural officials are quick to point out, there are medieval Christian churches remaining in other regions of Azerbaijan. The Azeri position that there are not and never have been Christians in Nakhichevan, thereby justifying Azerbaijan’s territorial claims to a traditionally Armenian area, is fundamentally a political matter. For Azerbaijan, it was worth destroying an irreplaceable part of world heritage to defend its political aims.

An article penned by Peter Tase appeared in Eurasia Diary, condemning the Pickman and Maghakyan article in Hyperallergic. Tase insisted that “all grave stones were carried by Armenian nationals from Julfa region of Azerbaijan to Armenia.” He characterized the Hyperallergic article as “insidious political offensive and information warfare that is clearly orchestrated by Yerevan’s top officials,” addressing “matters that have never happened throughout ancient and modern history of Julfa and Nakhchivan.” Clearly, for Azerbaijan, this is about politics, not culture.

By holding the 2019 meeting in Azerbaijan, hosted by the same government that ordered this cultural annihilation, UNESCO is demonstrating once again that deference to a national government is more important than commitment to international goals of protection.

Azerbaijan is an oil-rich nation in the Caucasus region, north of Iran. Since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, its government has been essentially a hereditary authoritarian state. A series of coups in Azerbaijan overthrew a democratically-elected president in 1993, leading to the rise in power of a former Soviet leader and KGB chief, Heydar Aliyev. The Aliyev family’s dominance has never waned; it is sustained by Azerbaijan’s vast oil wealth and characterized by state violence and a disregard for human rights. Heydar Aliyev’s son, Ilham Aliyev, replaced him as President in 2003. Ilham Aliyev was re-elected president for a fourth term in 2017, after terms were extended in 2016 to seven years. Four other parties boycotted the elections, which international observers stated were characterized by “serious irregularities.” The opposition party received only 3% of the vote.

The 21st century rulers of Azerbaijan do spend generously on “preserving culture,” and have restored a few Christian churches in other regions. Within Azerbaijan, however, only the cultural narrative that supports the regime counts. Despite Nakhichevan having once been a primary location for Orthodox Christian churches and monuments, none are listed today among Azerbaijan’s World Cultural Heritage Sites, or even the ten sites currently on Azerbaijan’s Tentative List.

What still remained of Nakhichevan’s Christian culture has been eliminated from history by an officially mandated cultural erasure over the last 15 years. The destruction is both physical and intellectual. At the same time that Christian monuments have been bulldozed and smashed with hammers, the regime has rewritten history and removed access to records of Orthodox Christian culture dating back to the medieval period in the enclave of Nakhichevan.

It should be noted that this cultural destruction is not necessarily based on religious antipathy. It exploits religious differences, but its true character is nationalist, and may be seen in other state actions. Take, for example, the Azeri government’s removal of Persian language inscribed tiles in 2013 from the mausoleum of Nezami Ganjavi in Ganja. The twelfth-century poet, known best as Nizami, although born and buried in what is now Azerbaijan, is revered throughout the Persian speaking world (and beyond) as the greatest romantic poet of the period. He wrote in Persian, not Turkic, and at the time, Azerbaijan did not exist as a country. Nonetheless, in justifying removing the tile inscription, Khalil Yusifli, the director of the Nezami Ganjavi Centre of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, stated that the tiles were being replaced with tiles of the poet’s verses translated into Azeri, to ensure that everyone understood that Nezami was a representative of Azerbaijani literature.

UNESCO’s willingness to ignore what is really going on among member nations, and its failure to demand accountability, is made abundantly clear in the lengthy report published in February 2019 by Simon Maghakyan and Sarah Pickman in Hyperallergic.

Because the sites on which Orthodox Christian churches, cathedrals, and graveyards once stood are now barren empty spaces, or the sites of brand-new mosques, the havoc wreaked on Armenian heritage by the Aliyev regime could have remained hidden forever, covered up by false statements and government propaganda.

In an amazing turn of fate, an extraordinary record of surveys, documentation, and photographs exists today, thanks to independent researcher Argam Ayvazyan. Ayvazyan began to make photographic records in Nakhichevan at the age of 17 in 1964. From that time until 1987, Ayvazyan documented the remains of Orthodox Christian, Armenian, and Muslim heritage in his native Nakhichevan, eventually publishing some 200 articles and over 40 books detailing both Christian and Muslim monuments.

During his researches, Ayvazyan often had to conceal his true interest in documenting historical materials that were already politically extremely sensitive during the Soviet period. At one point, he was stopped by police and pulled in for a talking-to by then KGB chief Heydar Aliyev, later to become the first President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and the father of the current President Ilham Aliyev.

Heydar Aliyev told him, according to Maghakyan and Pickman, “Never again do such things, there are no Armenian-Shmarmenian things here!”

Maghakyan and Pickman’s detailed forensic report in Hyperallergic is filled with the photographic documentation collected by Argam Ayvazyan over four decades. This irreplaceable history reveals the full and tragic extent of the Aliyev regime’s deliberate destruction of Armenian Christian monuments and cemeteries.

Based upon Ayvazyan’s records and photographs, he documented – and the Aliyev regime has now deliberately destroyed – at least 89 standing churches and cathedrals, 5,840 khachkars – ornately decorated standing headstones – and an estimated 22,000 flat headstones in the region’s cemeteries. All these monuments and cemeteries were recorded by dedicated Armenia-based researcher Argam Ayvazyam from 1964 to 1987.

One of the last places destroyed was the Djulfa cemetery, home to approximately 2000 Khachkars. The cemetery was preserved longer than many in Nakhichevan, perhaps because it was on the Iranian border, and it was possible for others to keep an eye on it from abroad. According to Maghakyan and Pickman, a Scottish researcher, Steven Sim, traveled to Nakhichevan in 2005. While he was quickly interrogated and told to leave, Sim at least saw many headstones from the Djulfa cemetery from the windows of the train leaving Djulfa.

But that was not to last. Just a few months later, Iranian border patrols spotted about 100 Azeri forces with construction vehicles and sledgehammers destroying the Khachkars in the ancient Armenian Cemetery.

Thanks in part to a massive publicity campaign to deflect accusations of corruption and money-laundering by the Aliyev regime, the destruction of Armenian Christian culture in Azerbaijan has been little noticed in the UK, Europe or the US. A 2017 investigation by The Guardian revealed that this campaign included highly paid consultants from European media, business and government (“UK at centre of secret $3bn Azerbaijani money laundering and lobbying scheme,” and even EU parliamentarians. According to The Guardian:

“…the Azerbaijani leadership, accused of serial human rights abuses, systemic corruption and rigging elections, made more than 16,000 covert payments from 2012 to 2014. Some of this money went to politicians and journalists, as part of an international lobbying operation to deflect criticism of Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, and to promote a positive image of his oil-rich country. There is no suggestion that all the recipients were aware of the original source of the money. It arrived via a disguised route.”

Also according to The Guardian, a Bulgarian consultant, Kalin Mitrev, received “at least €425,000 for private consulting work from a local Azeri company, Avuar Co.” Mitrev acknowledged the payments and said they were for legitimate business consultancy. The Guardian also noted that:

“The revelation that her husband consulted for an Azeri company might prove awkward for Mitrev’s wife, Irina Bokova, who is the director general of Unesco… She also hosted a photo exhibition at Unesco’s headquarters in Paris, entitled Azerbaijan – A Land of Tolerance. The Heydar Aliyev foundation organised the event.”

The exhibition Azerbaijan – A Land of Tolerance, opened on October 22, 2013, four months after Azerbaijan presented UNESCO with $5 million dollars, helping to offset a serious budget shortfall after the U.S. stopped making payments to the organization in 2011. Soon after, Bokova is said to have facilitated Azerbaijani participation in the UNESCO Leaders Forum, in which President Ilham Aliyev lectured the group on tolerance. President Aliyev said, “multiculturalism is not just an idea, it is our tradition, a state policy and our lifestyle.” Bokova also made several trips to Azerbaijan to participate in the UNESCO World Forum on Intercultural Dialog, which will hold its annual meeting there again on May 2-3, 2019.

The Aliyev regime claims to be a preservers of culture, and promotes that claim through well-financed publicity campaigns in which UNESCO, wittingly or not, has colluded. Ilham Aliyev’s wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, who holds multiple top positions as Vice President of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO and ISESCO, has received medals and positive press coverage for supporting ‘tolerance and interfaith harmony.’ Praise for the Azerbaijan regime has come from UNESCO, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Vatican. (Six years after the massive destruction of Orthodox Christian monuments within Azerbaijan, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation agreed in 2012 to fund the restoration of the catacombs of Saint Marcellinus and Saint Peter in Rome.) In 2010, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova presented the Mozart Medal, a top UNESCO award, to First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva.

The Djulfa Virtual Memorial and Museum is the U.S. non-profit organization that compiled the research on the destruction of Armenian heritage published in January 2019 in Hyperallergic and The Guardian. In the past, the group has also drawn attention to tactics used by the government of Azerbaijan to influence international opinion. After publication in 2017 of The Guardian’s expose of money-laundering and bribery, the organization called on Director-General Bokova to resign, based on Azerbaijan’s apparent manipulation of UNESCO, in an article published by Asbarez, a news outlet of the Armenian National Committee of America:

“While Irina Bokova has repeatedly and justifiably condemned ISIS vandalism of Assyrian, Christian, Islamic, Yezidi, and Hellenistic sites, she has failed to do so in the case of Azerbaijan’s state-sponsored, deliberate, and systematic targeting of medieval Armenian monuments despite UNESCO’s awareness of Djulfa’s destruction, as evidenced by its World Heritage Centre director Francesco Bandarin’s 2011 official correspondence with our organization…”

“…But her husband’s personal acceptance of laundered money from Azerbaijan appears to shed a light on Irina Bokova’s intransigent refusal to acknowledge, let alone seek accountability for, Azerbaijan’s destruction of medieval Djulfa and other monuments of the region’s ancient Armenian civilization.”

When the Institute for War and Peace Reporting stated that the medieval cemetery at Djulfa had been completely eradicated in 2006, the Baku government claimed the reports were false and insisted that the cemetery was still there. Since then, the regime has routinely denied access to the devastated region of Nakhichevan. Azeri authorities refused to allow a delegation from the European Parliament to Djulfa in August 2006, a trip which had been scheduled since January of that year. After his arrival in 2011 as American Ambassador, Matthew Bryza demanded to visit the region. Although the ambassador was generally seen as sympathetic to the government of Azerbaijan, he was refused permission to access the site.

The regime refuses to admit what it has done, and now denies that a Christian community ever existed in Nakhichevan. Parliamentarian Rafael Huseynov stated in 2008 that, ““There are no Armenian graves in the territory of Nakhchivan. This is just an Armenian fabrication.”

At the same time, Azerbaijan’s news coverage includes repeated reporting on the poor condition of Muslim historic sites in Armenia, along with claims that deliberate destruction of Azerbaijani heritage continues there.

Azerbaijan is one of 169 nations that has ratified (in 1992) the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which entered into force on 3 January 1976. This Covenant recognizes communities right to access science and culture, and to publicly participate in cultural life.

Azerbaijan has also ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which entered into force on 23 March 1976. The Covenant calls for the prohibition by law of any propaganda for war and of any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (art. 20). It also calls for protection of the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities in the territories of States parties (art. 27)

With respect to the religious heritage of Azerbaijan’s Christian communities in Nakhichevan, the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion enshrined in these fundamental documents appears to have been tossed aside.

The meeting in Azerbaijan could be an opportunity for the world to see how the wanton destruction of cultural heritage in recent decades has not only been perpetrated by terrorist groups and other non-state actors, but also undertaken by government forces. UNESCO’s meeting in Baku could be used to challenge a regime for placing a nationalist agenda above the value of cultural heritage for humanity as a whole. So far, UNESCO shows no sign of raising the issue. State sovereignty is a pillar of current UNESCO policy – but the situation in Azerbaijan shows how weak a protection it is when governments want to alter history. UNESCO’s current policies now appear to be an obstacle to preservation, instead of a means to prevent harm to heritage.


"After 6 years, New Orleans' African American Museum set for grand re-opening in Treme"

The to-do lists on the four pieces of bright yellow paper on the wall next to Gia Hamilton’s desk are a prominent reminder of what has already been accomplished — and what is left to be done — before the New Orleans African American Museum in Treme­ celebrates its re-opening on Thursday (April 11).


The evening event, with free admission, will feature a blessing by Sula Spirit, music from DJ RQ Away and refreshments from Dooky Chase’s Restaurant.

Visitors will also experience the debut of “Everywhere We Are, Everywhere We Go: Black Spaces and Geographies," an exhibition that Hamilton, the museum's new executive director and curator, got the Amistad Research Center to curate.

Focusing on the history of Treme, a neighborhood established by free people of color in the late 18th century, the exhibition features photos of Mardi Gras Indians, musicians such as Louis Armstrong and the neighborhood, as well as art and documents pertaining to the history of Treme.

The grand re-opening is a way to celebrate a new beginning for the museum.

It’s a challenge that Hamilton is embracing, and one that is personal as well as professional.

“I talk about the museum as a passion project,” said Hamilton.

The mother of four, soon to be five, is raising her children in Treme, where she's lived since 2016. Her grandmother was born in Treme.

Hamilton volunteered at the museum as a high-school student when it opened in 1996, after being recruited by her brother. “He had come back from France, where he had gotten his master's in business, and helped on various projects, such as setting up the books, for six months before moving to another job,” she said.

Her new position? “It's really serendipitous.”

Before joining the museum in January, Hamilton was the director of the Joan Mitchell Center, an artist residency program on Bayou Road, and before that served as consulting managing director of Junebug Productions, a New Orleans theatrical company.

Both gave her experience handling budgets, wrangling donations and dealing with the everyday issues of running a museum.

In May, Hamilton will present “Welcome to the Afrofuture,” which she curated at Art Basel Miami in 2018, and Paper Monuments’ “Claiming Space.” Paper Monuments seeks to bring diverse New Orleans voices to the discussion of public monuments.

Planning for the African-American Museum is done in the museum’s blue administration building at 1417 Gov. Nicholls St., which had been renovated, but never really put to use before the museum closed.

The other buildings include the Meilleur-Goldthwaite House, which faces the administration building, the former slave quarters, three houses and the Passebon Cottage, which was a brickyard owned by free people of color before the Civil War.

The properties stretch back from Gov. Nicholls Street along North Villere Street to Ursulines Street.

When walking through the complex with Hamilton, her excitement about what can be done is evident. But first, the buildings, some in a state of neglect and disrepair, need to be stabilized. She is awaiting contractors’ bids for that and future renovation.

For now, reconnecting with the community is among the priorities, particularly through events such as the grand re-opening.

Hamilton admits not wanting to do more than the museum can handle, but is excited about having robust programming, particularly through partnerships.

“We'll be launching something called the museum takeover that actually gives organizations and/or artists and creatives an opportunity to kind of utilize the museum in creative ways once a month," she said.

The word is out about the museum. Tour operators have started sending inquiries, and a school tour has been lined up. Ideas City conference and residency will start a few days after the grand re-opening. Ideas City, founded in 2011 by the New Museum in New York City, addresses the premise that art and culture are essential to the vitality of cities. The museum will be one of its locations for programming.

Standing outside the administration building and looking across the street at the museum's other structures, Hamilton said, “Like most people who drove by, I was saddened by the deterioration and that there was nothing happening.”

But starting Thursday, something will be happening again.


"On anniversary of Lee’s surrender, ACLU calls for removal of his statue"


RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) — Tuesday marked the 154th anniversary of the Confederate Army surrendering to the Union on April 9, 1865. The American Civil Liberties Union used the event, which ended the Civil War, as another call for action: to remove the Monument Avenue statue honoring Robert E. Lee.

Lee was the commander of the Confederate Army and the man who signed the surrender at the Appomattox Court House more than a century and a half ago. He is memorialized at the center of the roundabout at Monument and North Allen avenues in Richmond.

There have been numerous attempts to remove the statue or move it to a museum or other location that critics deem more appropriate.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has said he wants to take down the statues of Lee and other Confederate figures on Monument Avenue. But under state law, local governments do not have authority over such monuments.

Protests, demonstrations and rallies have taken place at the Lee statue. The monument has also been vandalized multiple times.

In an “emergency” response to such events, the Virginia Department of General Services has attempted to regulate demonstrations at the monuments. The Virginia branch of the ACLU is challenging those regulations as unconstitutional.

On Tuesday, the ACLU issued a statement calling on the public to urge Gov. Ralph Northam to take action and move the monument.

“The answer to the problem of how to balance public safety and the right to free expression at this public forum is not to enact burdensome, illegal regulations,” the group said.

ACLU officials said the Lee statue, which was erected in 1890, is a Jim Crow-era symbol of racism and oppression.

Northam could use his executive authority to remove the statue from Monument Avenue, the ACLU said.

“The Lee Monument is a state-property island in the middle of Richmond, and if Gov. Northam is committed to racial equity, he should immediately remove this towering racist symbol,” the organization said.


"Mummified mice and more in latest Egyptian tomb discovery"

SOHAG (AFP).- Dozens of mummified mice were among the animals found in an ancient Egyptian tomb, unveiled Friday by the antiquities ministry with the aim of drawing tourists to the central Sohag province.


The tomb dating back more than 2,000 years was unearthed in the city of Akhmim and is believed to have belonged to a senior official.

"It's one of the most exciting discoveries ever in the area," said Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities which sits within the ministry.

A human mummy was found inside, along with more than 50 mummified mice, cats and falcons, dating to the Ptolemaic era.

Egypt's tourism industry has been struggling in recent years and the antiquities ministry said Friday's presentation was intended to "draw the world's attention to the civilisation and antiquities of Egypt".

The country's plethora of heritage sites is a major draw for tourists and the ministry described Sohag as "one of the most historically rich cities in Egypt", where a museum opened last year.

Political instability and deadly attacks since the 2011 revolution have led to a drop in visitor numbers, although there has been a slight recovery in recent years.

Authorities regularly celebrate new discoveries, but Egypt is often accused of negligence regarding its cultural heritage and a lack of scientific rigour.


"Whitney Museum announces 300 recent acquisitions"

NEW YORK, NY.- The Whitney Museum of American Art announced today that it has acquired 300 works of art in the last six months. As a result of these acquisitions, 60 new artists and collectives have entered the collection.


Several of the acquisitions were first presented in the Whitney's ongoing series of exhibitions focused on emerging artists, including Carolina Caycedo and Lena Henke (Between the Waters, 2018), Christine Sun Kim (Christine Sun Kim: Too Much Future, 2018), Guadalupe Maravilla, Ronny Quevedo, and Clarissa Tossin (Pacha, Llaqta, Wasichay: Indigenous Space, Modern Architecture, New Art, 2018), and Willa Nasatir (Willa Nasatir, 2017).

In addition, the Whitney deepened its commitment to artists already represented in the collection by adding works by Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Carol Bove, Bruce Conner, John Currin, Roe Ethridge, Nan Goldin, David Hammons, Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko, Wu Tsang, David Wojnarowicz, Grant Wood, and others.

“The Whitney’s collection is a living, growing, and dynamic resource that allows us to continually reframe the history of American life and artistic culture. Our new acquisitions permit us to present new art histories, especially when we put those works on the Whitney’s walls so soon after acquiring them. Recent acquisitions such as Emma Amos’s Baby (1966) and Kay WalkingStick’s April Contemplating May (1972) are now displayed in Spilling Over: Painting Color in the 1960s, and an important 1959 painting by Ed Clark will reenergize our understanding of mid-century painting when it hangs this summer as part of a new collection display,” noted David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection.

Scott Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator added: “We’re thrilled that many of our recent acquisitions, particularly by artists new to the collection, arose through our reenergized emerging artist program. This continues our historical commitment to acquiring works by contemporary artists directly from our groundbreaking exhibitions and allows us to extend our dialogue with these artists as stewards of their work. We also are delighted that twelve of the artists in the upcoming Whitney Biennial are already in the collection, including Meriem Bennani, Barbara Hammer, Simone Leigh, and Christine Sun Kim, whose works have just entered the collection for the first time.”

The Whitney’s collection includes nearly 25,000 works created by some 3,500 artists during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This focus on the contemporary, along with a deep respect for artists’ creative process and vision, has guided the Museum’s collecting ever since its founding in 1930. The collection begins with Ashcan School painting and follows the major movements of the twentieth century in America, with strengths in modernism and Social Realism, Precisionism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop art, Minimalism, Postminimalism, art centered on identity and politics that came to the fore in the 1980s and 1990s, and contemporary work.


"Bill Reid Gallery explores water as an essential lifeway in timely Indigenous women group exhibition"


VANCOUVER.- Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art presents qaʔ yəxw – water honours us: womxn and waterways from April 10–October 2, 2019. The premiere group exhibition is guest curated by four members of the ReMatriate Collective — Tsēmā Igharas (Tahltan), Tiffany Creyke (Tahltan), Angela Marie Schenstead (nêhiyaw), and Denver Lynxleg (Anishinaabe) — and features nine Indigenous artists. The exhibition will also feature Audrey Siegl (Musqueam) as an important contemporary Water Keeper. The show honours the important role of Indigenous women on the coast, both past and present, in a timely investigation amid ongoing debates about pipelines and Indigenous rights. qaʔ yəxw is a hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ expression that means “water honours us.”

“This exhibition highlights womxn’s unique relationship with water as child bearers, healers, doulas, and other roles key to Indigenous matriarchal societies of the Northwest Coast as we are womxn and waterways,” says the ReMatriate Collective. “Water connects us all through the seas, rivers, and clouds, and is not bound by human-imposed borders. Through art, performance, and interactive programming, we explore water as a crucial element for all of creation, as well as its historical uses for survival and sacred cycles. In addition, the artists look at the excess of contemporary resource consumption as a threat to sensitive environmental and coastal ecosystems.”

Formed in 2014, the ReMatriate Collective is dedicated to strengthening future generations of Indigenous women through positive self-representation. Their work encompasses the dissemination of public visual- and text-based works and exhibitions, including social media photo campaigns and hands-on workshops on traditional practices and skill development. Their collective work has been featured at the Western Front (2016), Arts Underground in Whitehorse (2018), and the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at UBC (2018).

qaʔ yəxw – water honours us: womxn and waterways, features video, photography, carving, printmaking, beading, and performance by artists affiliated with various Indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast and the interior of British Columbia. Each of the nine artists considers a unique experience with the life-giving element of water, and creates innovative works based on culturally specific practices:

Richelle Bear Hat (Blackfoot/Cree) is a Calgary based artist and a member of Siksika Nation and Blueberry River Nation. She graduated from the Alberta College of Art + Design with a BFA in 2011. Bear Hat’s artistic practice investigates ideas surrounding family relationships and the types of knowledge that are capable of being passed through them.

Krystle Coughlin (Selkirk) is currently an MFA candidate at Simon Fraser University’s school of contemporary arts. Her artistic practice blends different materials, methodologies, and symbols to create conceptual works. She is influenced by Indigenous feminism, post-structuralism, anti-colonialism, and activism.

Lindsay Katsitsakataste Delaronde (Mohawk) was born and raised on the Kahnawake reservation. Delaronde is a professional multi-disciplinary visual artist who works in contemporary Indigenous performance and as a facilitator of traditional workshops, such as moccasin making, beadwork, and Iroquois corn husk dolls. She is currently the Indigenous Artist in Residence for the City of Victoria.

Alison Marks (Tlingit) was born and raised in Southeast Alaska. She studied under master artists David R. Boxley and David A. Boxley in Kingston, Washington. Painting, woodcarving, regalia, and digital collage are a few of the mediums the artist employs. Marks is committed to the revitalization of the Tlingit language and creating works for traditional and ceremonial use.

Dionne Paul (Nuxalk/Sechelt) has a Masters of Applied Arts at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Her thesis research focused on traditional special effects in potlatch performances. Paul’s work creates a unique lens to view Northwest Coast art, and opens a window to new possibilities of art objects and the relationship to performance.

Kali Spitzer (Kaska Dena) is from Daylu (Lower Post, BC) on her father’s side and Jewish on her mother’s side. Spitzer is currently studying at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and works with film — 35mm, 120mm, and large format. Her work includes portraits, figure studies, and photographs of her people, ceremonies, and culture.

Marika Echachis Swan (Nuu-chah-nulth) is a mother, artist, and community arts organizer of mixed Tla-o-qui-aht, Scottish, and Irish descent. Her main creative practice explores feminist Nuu-chah-nulth values through woodblock printmaking, often layered with other visual arts techniques such as carving, stencil, and photography.

Carrielynn Victor (Sto:lo) from the Chi:yom (Cheam) First Nation currently manages an Environmental Consultancy. Victor’s art is focused on maintaining Coast Salish design principles, while utilizing modern tools and mediums. Her work revolves around protection, preservation, and conservation of culture and the landscape.

Veronica Waechter (Gitxsan) grew up in Terrace, BC, on Tsimshian territory. In 2018, she graduated from Emily Carr University of Art + Design with a BFA, and soon after began working on totem pole carving with Gerry Sheena in different locations around Vancouver. Most recently, Waechter worked one-on-one under master carver Dempsey Bob.


"US returns ancient artifacts taken from Mexico"


Editor’s Note: It is highly unlikely that the FBI has information to document when and where these objects were found in West Mexico. It is equally disingenous to not acknowledge that there are thousands of similar objects from West Mexico in both recognized and published private and public collections throughout the world. It certainly appears that the public relations department of the FBI found it necessary to justify their raid by trashing Don Miller who is now dead. This is theater that unfortunately obfuscates real solutions to addressing looting and ownership of cultural peoperty.

MEXICO CITY (AFP).- The United States returned two ancient figurines to Mexico Tuesday, seized from the home of an amateur archeologist who died in 2015 with a collection of 42,000 artifacts, many of them taken illegally.

The small clay sculptures date from the Mesoamerican classical period, around 1,300 to 1,800 years ago, archeologists said at a ceremony at the US Embassy in Mexico City, where the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) handed back the figurines.

The long, strange story of their return "started with a police investigation, and concludes today with this ceremony, in which Mexico is recovering two artifacts that are part of its cultural heritage," said Mexican foreign ministry lawyer Sergio Estrada.

The artifacts were found in the US state of Indiana in the home of a collector named Don Miller, officials told journalists.

Miller, who died four years ago at age 91, spent his life traveling the world, participating in archeological digs and collecting rare artifacts, which he displayed in his basement.

But near the end of his life, the FBI -- acting on a tip -- raided his home and seized more than 7,000 of those artifacts, which appear to have been removed illegally from their countries of origin, said special agent Edward Gallant.

"In the 1960s and 1970s, Mr Miller participated in archeological digs in Mexico and Central America," and that is when he apparently took the two figurines, Gallant said -- though exactly where and when he found them is unclear.

Miller, whose collection also included items from China, Canada, Peru, Iraq and other countries, was cooperating with the FBI before he died, and was never prosecuted, said Gallant.

The FBI has established a database of the suspect items in his collection, and is slowly working through the painstaking process of trying to identify and return them.

Officials said it would take time and research to establish more about the origins and significance of the figurines, which both depict seated men clad only in jewelry.

"When artifacts are illicitly removed from their places of origin, we lose meaningful information about the study of the past. And once that context is destroyed, there is no recovering it," said Estrada.


"Germany begins 'largest' return of Aborigine remains"

MUNICH (AFP).- A German museum handed over the remains of an Aboriginal ancestral king to Australia on Tuesday in the first of three such ceremonies across Germany this month, which Canberra called a record return.


The Australian ambassador to Germany, Lynette Wood, and elder Gudju Gudju Fourmile of the Yidinji people received the skeletal remains at Munich's Five Continents museum where they have been stored since 1889.

"His journey now will be to be taken back home to Yidinji country," Fourmile said.

Yidinji representatives draped a black, yellow and red Aboriginal flag over the box containing the remains.

Skulls and bones from Australia's native peoples were removed by scientists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and taken to museums, universities and collections in Australia and around the world.

There they were subjected to "research" purporting to explain human biological variety.

In a statement, Australia's Minister for Communications and the Arts Mitch Fifield welcomed the planned repatriation of a total of 53 Australian indigenous remains from Germany in April, saying it would be "the largest number of ancestors returned from Germany to date".

A further ceremony is planned at Stuttgart's Linden Museum on Friday for the repatriation of eight Aborigine remains.

"These ancestors will be returned to Australia under Australian government stewardship, so they can be cared for closer to home while further work is undertaken to identify their communities of origin," Fifield said.

On Monday in Berlin, 37 ancestors' remains from the Saxony state ethnographic collections as well as five ancestors from Martin Luther University will be returned to Yawuru community representatives and the Australian government.

"The Government would like to thank the German state governments and the collecting institutions for their commitment to recognising the significance of repatriation for all Australians, which contributes to healing and reconciliation," Fifield said.

Stepping up repatriations

Bavaria's arts and sciences minister Bernd Sibler, who attended Tuesday's event, said the German state was committed to a "transparent approach to collections from the colonial era", in coordination with indigenous representatives.

Australia's Department of Communication and the Arts said it had supported the "unconditional" return of more than 1,500 Australian indigenous ancestral remains from overseas and private collections for more than 30 years.

It said it was in talks with 35 institutions across 10 countries on the return of further remains.

Berlin's Charite, one of Europe's largest university hospitals, was the first scientific institution in Germany to sign a repatriation agreement with Australia, in 2008.

In April 2013 it handed over the skulls and bones of 33 Aborigines to Australian representatives to be returned for burial.

Germany has until now returned 51 human remains to Australia.

The native Aboriginal population, who have occupied Australia for 50,000 years, were dispossessed of their lands by the arrival of settlers two centuries ago.

As the colonisers pushed into the vast interior of the island continent, they were resisted by the local population and thousands of men, women and children were killed.

Germany is stepping up efforts to return human remains in its museums, hospitals and private collections.

The culture and foreign ministries as well as regional and local cultural authorities signed a pledge last month to speed up the return of human remains and artwork from former African colonies.

Germany has on several occasions repatriated human remains to Namibia, where it slaughtered tens of thousands of indigenous Herero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908.


"Alien Technology: Egyptian Light Bulb"


At the Temple of Hathor, Dendera, are stone reliefs showing a large lightbulb being used by Egyptians. Also referred to as the Dendera Light Bulb, the depiction is similar to the early lightbulb known as the "Crookes tube" (1895 A.D.) The relief's version of this light bulb shows a snake Inside the glass bulb in the form of a wavy line. This is believed to represent the hot filament. Snakes have been used to represent god-like knowledge and wisdom and are often used to represent rocket ships or space crafts that brought ancient aliens from the stars. Considering the lack of technological understanding of the primitive Egyptian craftsman, it is understandable how they would consider a white hot filament to be a magical snake. The filament (or snake) originates from a lotus flower (the socket of the lightbulb). A wire leads from the socket to a small box on which Shu, the Egyptian air god, is kneeling. Shu was the deity tasked with cooling and maintaining the air. How fitting that we see this god being put in charge of the likely extremely hot powering system for this amazing creation.

Beside the bulb stands a two-armed djed pillar, which is connected to the filament. This pillar is believed to be the power source for the light bulb. This pillar looks like an electric capacitor that we see today in power plants and its hard to believe the Egyptians possessed this technology.

The presence of electrical light would explain how the tomb hieroglyphs and inscriptions found under the Temple of Hathor were created without the use of burning torch light. Torches were used to give light to the artisans that created the reliefs and hieroglyphs found in the many tombs and temples of Egypt. These artisans would go to work after the construction was done. Evidence of torch use is often found in the blackened ash on the ceilings of temples and tombs. However, in Hathor, there is absolutely no ash and no burned oil markings. There is no evidence of underground fires ever having been used. And, archeologists confirm these reliefs were not carried in and placed on the walls. They are actually carved into the building stones of the structures. This work could only have been completed on-site and after construction was complete. So, then, how could the artisans spend the hundreds of hours required to produce their works in absolute darkness?

The use of light bulbs answers the question. Electric light is, in fact, the only plausible explanation for how light was generated without buring flames in the deep chambers under the Temple of Hathor.

Next, we must ask the question, "how was electricity generated to power the light bulbs?" Answer: batteries. In fact, the discover of what is called the "Badgdad Battery" shows this was exactly how the Egyptians powered the light bulb. The Baghdad Battery, sometimes referred to as the Parthian Battery, is the common name for a number of artifacts created in Mesopotamia, during the dynasties of Parthian or Sassanid or Persian Empire period, and discovered in 1936 in the village of Khuyut Rabbou'a, near Baghdad, Iraq. Through the use of copper, electrolytes and salts in a clay jar, electricity was believed to be generated.

Now we have given credibility to the use and powering of electrical light previous to 2000 B.C. Finally, we come to the most alarming question: "How did the primitive Egyptians (2000-3000 B.C.) invent electric light?" Answer: Ancient alien technology. The Egyptians did not possess the ability to heat sand to the point of melting (4200 degrees Fahrenheit) that is required to create glass until around 1400 B.C. Glass was obviously used in the Egyptian lightbulbs. So then, the ability to create glass was yet another technology given to the Egyptians by Alien intelligence.


"Mysterious Secret Tunnel Discovered Under Ancient Pyramid in Mexico"

A secret passage to the underworld may have just been discovered, at least according to the mysterious ancient civilization that built it.


Archaeologists have confirmed the existence of a hidden tunnel leading to a chamber deep underneath the Pyramid of the Moon, the massive temple located in the ancient city of Teotihuacán, near what is now Mexico City. The team of researchers believe the chamber may have been used for funeral rituals, while the tunnel may have represented the route to the underworld—a powerful concept for the Aztecs, Maya and other pre-Columbian societies.

Using a technique called electrical resistance technology, researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and Institute of Geophysics of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) mapped an image of the earth beneath the pyramid without breaking any ground. This is how they discovered the hollowed-out chamber about 26 feet under the pyramid, with a diameter of 49 feet, as well as the subterranean tunnel.

First settled as early as 400 B.C., Teotihuacán became the thriving center of the ancient Mesoamerican world by 300 A.D., around the time the city’s largest structures, including the Pyramid of the Moon, were completed. No one knows for sure who founded Teotihuacán, or why the civilization centered there suddenly and mysteriously collapsed starting around A.D. 600. By A.D. 750, the surviving members of a population that at its height may have numbered some 200,000 had dispersed, leaving their once-great metropolis and its sacred pyramids behind

The Aztecs first found the city’s ruins around 1300, and gave it its name, which means “the place where men become gods” in their Nahuatl language. Since the 17th century, the temple known in the pre-Hispanic world as Meztli Itzácual has been the site of dozens of archaeological excavations.

Built on elevated ground, the Pyramid of the Moon is the highest point in the ancient complex. This pyramid towers above 12 smaller pyramid platforms believed to be stages where both animal and human sacrifices took place. It is located at the opposite end of the so-called Avenue of Death from Teotihuacán’s largest structure, the Pyramid of the Sun.

Earlier tombs found inside the Pyramid of the Moon have contained sacrificial remains, including deformed human skulls, as well as jewelry and other grave objects made of green stone. According to Verónica Ortega, director of the Integral Conservation Project for the Plaza of the Moon, excavations of the newly discovered chamber will likely turn up similar objects.

“These large offering complexes constitute the sacred heart of the city of Teotihuacán, the reason why everyone saw it as the mecca of the civilization,” Ortega said in a statement. “What can be found inside them will help unravel the relationship this ancient metropolis had with other regions of Mesoamerica.”


"Mysterious Ships Described by Herodotus Discovered After 2,500 Years"


Around 450 B.C., the Greek writer Herodotus traveled to Egypt. His later account of the trip, included in his famous work The Histories, focused on a distinctive river barge known as a “baris,” which he said the Egyptians used to ferry goods up and down the Nile River.

Herodotus described the vessel as having a single rudder that passed through a hole in the keel, a mast of acacia wood and papyrus sails. But for centuries, scholars had been unable to find evidence that such a vessel existed—until now.

A team of researchers investigating the sunken ruins of the ancient port city of Thonis-Heracleion, located off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt, have discovered more than 70 shipwrecks. One of those wrecks, archaeologists say, is a well-preserved vessel that almost exactly matches Herodotus’ description of the baris.

Called Ship 17, it originally measured up to 28 meters long, with a crescent-shaped hull (70 percent of which has survived) and thick planks of acacia wood, held together with long wooden ribs, or tenons.

“Herodotus describes the boats as having long internal ribs. Nobody really knew what that meant,” Damian Robinson, director of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology, told The Guardian. “That structure’s never been seen archaeologically before. Then we discovered this form of construction on this particular boat and it absolutely is what Herodotus has been saying.”

Before Alexandria was founded in 331 B.C., Thonis-Heracleion (the combined Greek-Egyptian name for the city) was one of the world’s great port cities, welcoming all ships coming to Egypt from the Greek world. Built around a massive temple to to the god Amun-Gereb, the city resembled Venice, Italy, with its intricate network of canals.

But the effects of a series of natural disasters caused the city’s central island to liquify near the end of the second century A.D., and by the end of the eighth century, the last remnants of Thonis-Heracleion had sunk completely into the Mediterranean.

In 2000, a team from the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology, directed by French archaeologist Franck Goddio, discovered the ruins in Abu Qir Bay, some 6.5 kilometers off the coast of Alexandria. In addition to the shipwrecks, the underwater excavations have yielded gold coins, statues and the remains of the city’s great temple.

Archaeologist and shipwreck specialist Alexander Belov, who worked with Goddio on the excavations, recently published a book outlining the team’s findings. In Ship 17: a Baris from Thonis-Heracleion, Belov places the vessel within ancient Egyptian and Mediterranean boat-building traditions, and traces the many similarities between the wreck’s nautical architecture and Herodotus’ description of the baris’ construction.

Celebrated by many as the “Father of History,” Herodotus has also had his fair share of critics, many of whom accuse him of writing more fiction than fact. Some of his tallest tales, his detractors claim, involve the various things he said he saw during his wide-ranging travels in Egypt, Africa and Asia Minor.

To take one famous example, Herodotus claimed that in Persia he saw giant “ants” the size of foxes, which spread gold dust when they dug their mounds. After being dismissed for centuries, his story was vindicated in the 1990s, when the French explorer Michel Peissel discovered a fox-sized marmot in the Himalayas that did spread gold dust while digging, and had done so since ancient times. The Persian words for “mountain ant” and “marmot” were quite similar, it turns out, leading Peissel to conclude Herodotus had probably fallen victim to a simple error in translation.


"Divers Have Discovered an ‘Exceptional’ Trove of Artifacts Tied a Llama Sacrifice Ritual in South America’s Largest Lake"


Marine archaeologists have discovered a strikingly well preserved ancient ceremonial site in Lake Titicaca, on the border of modern-day Peru and Bolivia. Divers recovered ritual offerings, including slaughtered animals and gold ornaments, on the Khoa reef. The finds date from between the 8th and 10th centuries AD, when the pre-Inca Tiwanaku people presided over the Lake Titicaca basin. The region had a population of around 1 million people prior to the Spanish conquest.

The Tiwanaku people traveled to the reef by boat and carried out elaborate religious ceremonies there, taking in an impressive panoramic view of the lake and the surrounding mountains.


Researchers turned their attention to the reef after several amateur divers recovered ancient artifacts submerged roughly 16 feet underwater some six miles offshore of the lake’s Island of the Sun. The trove of ancient artifacts were discovered through three systemic excavations carried out beginning in 2013. They suggest that the Tiwanaku state decorated llamas with leather and gold ornaments in preparation for ritual sacrifices that also involved gold and carved stone offerings.

“What is great about these artifacts is that, beyond their beauty and the quality of manufacture, they were discovered in an undisturbed context,” Christophe Delaere, a marine archaeologist at the University of Oxford and the Free University of Brussels, told the Guardian. “This is one of the advantages of underwater heritage. Lake Titicaca protects its ancient material culture from time and man. Never before have so many artifacts of this quality been discovered. The history that these objects tell us is exceptional.”

Among the impressive finds are a lapis lazuli puma figurine, ceramic puma incense burners, a gold medallion, and other gold ornaments. There were also Spondylus oyster shells native to the oceans off Ecuador—over 1,200 miles away—suggesting the civilization was part of an impressive trade network. The research team published their findings this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The Tiwanaku is the greatest Native American empire that many Americans have never heard of,” Paul Goldstein, an archaeologist in the Department of Anthropology at UC San Diego who was not involved in the research project, told National Geographic. “Every time we find something that reflects the complexity of the society, it adds to our deeper knowledge of the origins of complex societies worldwide.”


"Chicago's Art Institute postpones Native American exhibit over concerns of cultural insensitivity"

The Art Institute of Chicago made the unprecedented decision this week to postpone a major exhibition on Native American pottery weeks before it is slated to open after indigenous scholars raised concerns about cultural insensitivity.


“Worlds Within: Mimbres Pottery of the Ancient Southwest” was slated to open on May 26, but the Chicago Tribune reported Monday that its opening has been pushed back amid concerns that more needed to be done to include native voices in the presentation.

The exhibit was set to display roughly 70 pieces of pottery from communities along the Mimbres River in modern-day New Mexico from about A.D. 1100. The pieces are owned by a local collector who pledged them to the museum.

The display's primary issue is that the objects were found in graves, the Tribune reported.

Patty Loew, the director of Northwestern University’s Center for Native American and Indigenous Research, criticized the collection, saying it is “not art.”

“If someone dug up your great-grandmother’s grave and pulled out a wedding ring or something that had been buried with her, would you feel comfortable having that item on display?” Loew told the outlet.

The museum hosted a “scholars day” for Native American researchers and community representatives in December.

Heather Miller, the executive director of Chicago’s American Indian Center, told the newspaper that members of the group were “very adamant” with museum leadership about postponing the exhibit.

“Now I feel great that our concerns and our issues were actually addressed by this institution,” Miller said.

Andrew Hamilton, the Art Institute’s new associate curator of the art of the Americas, told the Tribune that the museum just needed “more time.”

“To me it’s a great step to be able to take this time and really reassess,” he said.

Kati Murphy, a spokesperson for the museum, said the scholars day gathering contributed to their decision to push back the opening.

The Art Institute is now working to engage and collaborate with Native American nations with close ties to the Mimbres people, Murphy said.

This includes current Pueblo people, who are believed to include descents of the Mimbres, the Tribune noted.

“The principal thing that we have not accomplished is to have an aligned indigenous perspective, scholarly and curatorial, with the project,” said James Rondeau, the Art Institute’s president and director. “And I think that ultimately for us has been the crucial realization that our ability to reflect back what we were learning needed to be done in multiple voices, not just our voice.”

Loew praised the Art Institute for postponing the show, calling it the “right decision.” Still, she criticized officials for not reaching out to Native American leaders before the exhibit's creation.

“It’s not fair to frame what you’re going to do and then bring in people to affirm the decisions you’ve already made. … There should have been consultation and communication from the very beginning,” Loew told the Tribune.


"Ancient Mysteries That Still Baffle Scientists Today"

It seems like every day there are new discoveries being made about the ancient civilizations that have come before us. Archaeologists and scientists have been able to find and research artifacts from the ancient world to learn more about how our ancestors lived and how we came to be who we are.


Most of the time, the findings are evident after doing extensive research, like the invention of the wheel or the purpose of the pyramids of Ancient Egypt. But there are times that no matter how much research is done, scientists have no idea how or why things existed.

Here are the biggest ancient mysteries that still baffle scientists today:

Baghdad Battery

While doing archeological excavating in the Middle East in 1838, in the area now known as Iraq, Wilhelm Konig, a German archeologist, unearthed a collection of clay jars dated to around 200 BCE. Inside each jar was an iron rod wrapped in a copper cylinder. Konig studied the clay jars and their odd contents and came to the conclusion that these were ancient batteries. When he published his findings, the scientific world was abuzz. How could the ancient people even know about electricity, let alone make batteries to create it?

To test the battery theory, a college professor had her students make replicas of the clay jars, iron rods and copper coils, and to everyone’s surprise, the Baghdad batteries produced an electrical current. Now that experts confirmed that the clay jars were really batteries and that they worked, it led to a much bigger question. What were ancient people using the electricity for?


Sumerian King List

An ancient cuneiform clay tablet lists every single one of the Sumer kings, going all the way back to the third millennium BCE and is a veritable who’s who of power rulers of the ancient Sumerians. What makes the Sumerian King List some intriguing is the reigns of many of the prehistoric rulers.

Some kings, according to the tablet, reigned for thousands of years and some for hundreds of years. Did the people of ancient Sumer live an incredibly long time? Was this proof of their divinity? Or is it simply a mathematical error? It seems unlikely that so many mistakes were made…the keepers of the Sumerian Kings List took great care to be as accurate as possible in their record keeping.

The Devil’s Bible

An enormous medieval book, the Devil’s Bible is a strange and thought-provoking religious book that was said to have been written entirely in one night by a 13th century monk who sold his soul to the Devil in order to meet his deadline. According to the legend surrounding the Devil’s Bible, the author monk was convicted of breaking his vows and sentenced to a grisly fate. He was going to be walled up alive, left to starve to death in his own tomb. The monk struck a plea deal with the monastery. He would write a single book containing all the knowledge in the world and he would accomplish this impossible feat in one day and night. Left alone to his work, the monk struck a deal with the Devil. In the morning, the monk presented his finished book, with 310 filled pages, to the monastery to secure his release.

Clearly a single person could not hand-write that much in such a short amount of time, yet there are some anomalies with the Devil’s Bible. The handwriting indicates that a single person wrote the entire book and that the work was completed in a relatively short amount of time. The book is massive, measuring three feet in length and it weighs so much that two people are needed to lift it. In the pages of the Devil’s Bible is a complete Latin translation of the Holy Bible, as well as other works, a huge and frightening drawing of the Devil, and pages of medical formulas and notes of exorcisms. The book remains complete today, except for twelve pages that have been removed. No one knows what information was on those missing pages or why they were removed.

Japan’s Atlantis

The ruins of an ancient city, said to be at least 5,000 years old, is submerged in the waters just off the coast of Yonaguni Jima in Japan. Some researchers think that the site is the former city of the Jomon culture, but others believe that the giant stones, with their sharp right angles, are merely a strange natural phenomenon. Any time there are ruins of an ancient city found under water, people immediately link it to the legends of Atlantis, the fabled sophisticated city that fell into the ocean in a single day.

Scientists studying the Yonaguni Jima site, however, believe that rising sea levels eventually swallowed the coastal city and it was not the victim of a cataclysmic event. The ruins are a recent find. A diver happened upon the giant stones in 1995. And although many people still maintain that the ruins are nothing more than natural rock formations, it is hard to explain an arched entry way and stone staircase as natural formations.

Rongorongo Writing

Overshadowed, quite literally, by the giant stone heads on Easter Island is the Rongorongo writings, a strange and indecipherable written language found nowhere else but on the mysterious Easter Island. The writings were first discovered in 1864 by researcher Eugene Eyraud, the odd symbols seem to be an early form of writing that features symbols, called glyphs, instead of letters.

The Rongorongo writings date back to around 1200, the unique symbols were carved into wooden planks using a shark tooth. To date, no one has been able to translate the writings, but anthropologists believe they may contain religious information. What makes the Rongorongo system of writing particularly significant is that it developed organically without influence from the outside world.

Saksaywaman Fortress Walls

Stones weighing more than 200 tons form the Saksaywaman Fortress Walls in Cuzco, Peru. The fortress predates the Incan empire, but researched have not been able to definitively date the structure. The craftsmanship at the site is awe-inspiring. The boulders fit together perfectly, as if they were machined. There is no evidence at the site to indicate how the giant stones were carved and lifted into place. Even today, that would require a team of experts and a tremendous amount of manpower.

The people living in the area have a legend that says that a liquid extracted from a native plant makes the stones lighter and more malleable. The legend goes on to say that the rocks were heated to a high temperature that forced them to meld tightly together. Although archeologists do not know how the structure was constructed, they do have evidence that the site was used as a temple and that various ceremonies took place there in the ancient past.

The Stone Spheres of Costa Rica

In ancient times, a stone carver or group of stone carvers in the Diquis Delta of Costa Rica carved hundreds of giant stone spheres with such precision and craftsmanship that most of the stone balls are nearly perfectly round. Attributed to the now extinct Diquis tribes, the spheres represent some of the best and most mysterious stone sculptures of the Isthmo-Colombian region. The stone spheres were carved out of a type of igneous rock found in the area known as granodiorite. Some of the carved stones weigh as much as 16 tons and are larger than two meters in diameter.

Although the exact purpose of the giant stone has yet to be determined, it appears that the spheres were placed in a line leading to the home of the tribe’s chief. Today, many of the spheres have been moved from their original locations and can be found in private gardens of wealthy homeowners. Because so many of the stones have been moved, it makes it difficult for researchers to glean new information from these unusual artifacts.

Nasca Lines

Walking on the dry, desert plains of Nasca in southern Peru, you’d be hard pressed to notice anything unusual. But fly over the region in an airplane and you will see something truly amazing and unexplained. Etched into the hard-packed earth are giant images and symbols, called geoglyphs. There are more than a hundred of these geoglyphs, allegedly made by the Nasca culture between 500 BCE and 500 CE. In addition to numerous long, straight lines that look a bit like runways, there are recognizable images, such as birds, fish, monkeys, and humans.

The strangest thing is that these images were clearly meant to be viewed from above, yet they were made centuries before air travel was possible. At ground level, the difference in color between the surface stone and the stone just below the surface is hardly distinguishable. But from above, the images can be easily seen. How were these images created on such a large scale is as much as mystery as why they were etched. Were they religious or ceremonial symbols? Or were they meant to guide visitors from above?

The Hellenikon Pyramid

Although we most closely associate pyramid structures with ancient Egypt, similar pyramid-shaped buildings can be found all over the world. It is obvious that the design was an important and symbolic one to the people of many cultures. Take, for example, the Hellenikon Pyramid, one of the more famous of the Pyramids of Argolis, Greece.

There is surprisingly little textural evidence to tell us when the Hellenikon Pyramid was built and why, but there is a notation from the 2nd century AD that makes mention that the Hellenikon Pyramid was a mass tomb for the soldiers who died in battle for control of Argos. Archeologists, however, have failed to unearth any evidence that the Hellenikon Pyramid was built to be a tomb. Interestingly, experts believe the Hellenikon Pyramid was constructed around 2721 BCE, which means it is much, much older than the Egyptian pyramids.


"Is this a New Species of Human?"

Strange fossils from China don't seem to fit any known hominin species. Could they be something new?


They're not quite Neanderthals and not quite modern humans. They're something else, but no one is sure what.

Newly-examined fossils suggest that an unknown species of human was roaming parts of northern China between 60,000 and 120,000 years ago. Alternatively, the fossils could be the result of interbreeding between two of the known species.

We know there were as many as four other early humans living on Earth when modern humans were still confined to Africa. The Neanderthals lived in Europe, the Denisovans in Asia and the "hobbit" Homo floresiensis in Indonesia: plus there was a mysterious fourth group from Eurasia that interbred with the Denisovans.

The new findings suggest the picture is even more complicated.

The Chinese remnants were first discovered in a cave in the Xujiayao site in 1976. They consist of some skull fragments, and nine teeth from four individuals. A comprehensive analysis of the teeth has now been published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

María Martinón-Torres of the National Research Centre on Human Evolution in Burgos, Spain and her colleagues looked at the size and shape of the crown and root system, the grooves, cusps and crests, and their positions relative to each other. These were then compared to a pool of over 5,000 teeth representing nearly all the known hominin species.

"Teeth are like 'landscapes in miniature'," says Martinón-Torres. "Each of those slopes, grooves, valleys define a pattern or combination of features that can be distinctive of a population."

It was clear that the teeth did not resemble those of modern humans, H. sapiens. Instead, they have several primitive features, some of which look like the older species H. erectus, while some look more like Neanderthals.

Other skeletal parts found at the same site, described last year, don't neatly fit the known species either.

Nevertheless, Martinón-Torres is reluctant to claim that the teeth represent a new species.

"What we have seen is an unknown group for us," she says. "It's not H. sapiens and it's not H. neanderthalensis. They have a mixture of something very primitive, which is currently unknown. We cannot go further to say it's a new species because we need to compare it to other things."

They might actually fit an existing species. "They could even be Denisovans," adds Martinón-Torres.

The Denisovans co-existed and even interbred with us. But hardly anything is known about them. The only fossils come from a cave in Siberia and consist of two teeth and a tiny finger bone. DNA analysis revealed that they were distinct from both Neanderthals and modern humans but had aspects of both.

The Xujiayao teeth show a similar pattern, Martinón-Torres says.

Not everyone agrees. While the sample is small, it "strongly suggests the presence of a previously unrecognized species," says Darren Curnoe of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. "There's little doubt in my mind that these teeth stand out as something unique." The surface features on the teeth alone should be enough to argue for a new species, he says.

Curnoe previously described another set of mysterious hominin fossils from China, the "Red Deer Cave People", though these lived more recently than the Xujiayao hominins.

Others echo Martinón-Torres' caution. Matthew Skinner of the University of Kent, UK says fossil samples from Asia are so sparse that it is hard to infer species status.

Fred Spoor of University College London in the UK agrees with Skinner. He says the remains show a mix of modern and primitive features. "What it means is another matter." Conceivably the remains come from a hybrid of modern humans and Denisovans, "but that is pure speculation".

Many of the supposedly separate Homo species might just be variants of a single species, says Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. "As the fossil record fills in, most of the purported gaps between such 'species' are gradually disappearing," he says. "Real species in the real world, especially for large bodied animals like us, are widespread and variable."

On that view, finding teeth that don't fit the known "species" just isn't surprising.

More bones would help, and they might turn up soon, as parts of Asia are turning out to be rich in fossils.

But it may be that only DNA evidence will offer definitive answers, says Matthias Meyer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. "It would be great to get more data from east Asia, but obviously, this is difficult."

"There was probably more than one species of early human in Asia, which wouldn't be surprising considering the size of the continent and how isolated it is," says Martinón-Torres. Last year she helped describe some teeth from the same time period in east China, which also did not neatly fit the known species.

Some of these populations could even have been ancestors of modern Europeans, according to some researchers. Most think Africa was the cradle of modern humans, so this is controversial. But Martinón-Torres thinks people will return to the idea, as more and more Asian fossils are analysed.

Curnoe agrees. "We've neglected East Asia for far too long," he says.

"Now we're starting to get a few surprises that don't fit with conventional wisdom based on fossils from Europe and Africa."


"Christie's Restitution Department facilitates the return of Nazi-looted painting

NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s confirmed it has facilitated the successful return of a 17th century Dutch Old Master painting confiscated by the Nazis from a renowned French private collection in 1943 during the Nazi occupation of France. Solomon Koninck’s A Scholar Sharpening His Quill, painted in 1639, will be returned to the heirs of Adolphe Schloss (1842-1911) on Monday April 1 at the Consulate General of France in New York under the auspices of the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs for the French Republic. The ceremony, organized with the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, will include representatives from the Schloss family, the FBI Art Crime Team, and Christie’s.


Confiscated by the Nazis in France in 1943, the painting was rediscovered by Christie’s Restitution Research team after it had been taken in on consignment in 2017 from a private collector in Chile and shipped to Christie’s New York. Comprehensive research over the course of the following weeks led the Christie’s team to investigate and cross-reference multiple international databases and historical sources – some digitized and others not – to confirm the consigned painting was a match to one described as missing from the Schloss family collection for the last 75 years. The painting is believed to have been in Chile since the 1950s, after it was sold into a private collection there by Walter Andreas Hofer, a known purchasing agent for Hermann Göring, a leader of the Nazi Party.

Once the match was confirmed, Christie’s Restitution and Legal teams halted the pre-sale process, secured the painting, and notified both the consignor and the Schloss family, in keeping with Christie’s global policy governing Nazi-spoilated property. In October of 2018, after attempts to facilitate an amicable resolution for the painting reached an impasse, Christie’s referred the case and its research findings on to the FBI Art Crime Team.

Marc Porter, Chairman of Christie’s Americas, commented: “Today we are gratified to see that the diligent research efforts of our dedicated Restitution Team have brought about the long-awaited return of this painting to Adolphe Schloss’s heirs. Navigating this issue across international borders has been complex for all parties involved, and we are grateful for the partnership of the US Attorney’s Office and FBI Art Crime Team in helping us to reach this resolution today.”

Monica Dugot, Senior Vice President and International Director of Restitution, at Christie’s added, “To date, Christie’s has helped to resolve nearly 200 restitution claims involving Nazi-spoilated property. Today’s successful return reaffirms our commitment to continued investment in research and scholarship in this vitally important area.”

A Scholar Sharpening His Quill was among the hundreds of paintings looted from the Schloss collection in France in 1943. During his life, Adolphe Schloss assembled one of the most significant private collections of Dutch and Flemish paintings, which passed to his wife and children upon his death. The collection’s prominence and the Schloss family Jewish heritage made it a target for confiscation by the Nazi party, and the Koninck Scholar painting was among those taken from a chateau in France where the Schloss family had sent the artworks for safekeeping. Records show the Koninck was among a number of works earmarked for Hitler’s museum at Linz but it never arrived there. While it was being held in the Führerbau building in Munich in the days between the fall of the Third Reich and the arrival of Allied troops, the contents of the building were looted by German civilians and the Schloss Koninck was among the many artworks that disappeared.


"One million expected at blockbuster Paris Tutankhamun show"


PARIS (AFP).- At least one million people are expected to flock to a "once in a generation" exhibition about the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun which opens in Paris this weekend.

More than 150 treasures from the boy king's tomb -- including 60 which have never left Egypt before -- have been assembled for the blockbuster show. The Egyptian Ministry for Antiquities said this is the largest number of Tutankhamun artefacts ever to have left Cairo, and may never happen again.

Ticket sales for "Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh" topped 130,000 last week as curators began the delicate task of installing the spectacular 3,400-year-old exhibits.

Almost all come from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo's Tahrir Square, and are never likely to leave the country again.

Its unparalleled collection is being transferred to the enormous new Grand Egyptian Museum near the pyramids at Giza, which is due to open next year.

The Louvre in Paris has also loaned one of its top Tutankhamun pieces to the show, a statue of Amon, the king of the gods, protecting the pharaoh.

Mostafa Waziry, the Egyptian ministry's secretary general, said the touring show -- which will open in London in November before moving on to Sydney -- will help pay for the new Giza museum.

Last trip outside Egypt

But the global tour -- which will take in six other as yet undisclosed cities -- also marks "the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the tomb of the boy king" by the British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922.

"Please see them," Waziry declared. "Visit them before they return to Egypt for ever."

The Paris show at the giant la Villette arts complex opens by summoning up the Valley of the Kings near Luxor where the necropolis was found, using huge video screens and tonnes of sand.

Giant doors then open into the vast dimly-lit interior where the treasures are displayed, the most dazzling being one of the life-sized gilded black guardian statues that stood on either side of the king's burial chamber.

As well as the grand funerary objects, there are also the gloves, sandals, canes and hunting bows that the pharaoh was to use in the afterlife.

Video displays show the excavations and explain the massive influence "King Tut" has had on art, fashion and popular culture, right to down to pop star Beyonce's Egypt-influenced concerts.

Organisers said they were expecting around 1.2 million people to pass through the doors in the next six months.


Previous exhibitions about the boy pharaoh have been record-breaking blockbusters, setting off "Tut-mania" around the globe.

More than eight million people attended a 1973 show, "The Treasures of Tutankhamun", at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Another 1.2 million people queued to see a smaller exhibition six years earlier at the Petit Palais in Paris in what was called "the show of the century".

But unlike those shows, the new exhibition will be without Tutankhamun's golden death mask.

An Egyptian now bans the mask, made from just over 10 kilos (22 pounds) of gold, from leaving the country.

Tarek El Awady, the director of the new Grand Egyptian Museum, who is also curating the Paris show, said the ancients loved gold "because it doesn't change", nor would it lose its lustre in the eternal afterlife.

"If they had thought they would be buried for ever the objects wouldn't have been so beautiful," he told AFP.

Tutankhamun's tomb is still "the only (Egyptian) tomb found intact," he added.

"It wasn't just a window for us, but an open door into this culture. For the first time we could touch something" for the country's glorious past.

Although organisers insisted that the contents of the show are priceless, they have been insured for more than $800 million (700 million euros).

The Paris show runs until September 15. A slightly different version of the exhibition was staged in Los Angeles last year.


"The giant legacy of Okwui Enwezor—the art curator who shared Africa with the world"

Over two decades Okwui Enwezor emerged as a dominant and highly influential voice in curatorial practice and contemporary art history. He was a curator and art historian who engaged and grappled with the various iterations of what might be broadly construed as the post-colonial and global turns in visual art.


Born in Nigeria in 1963, Enwezor not only introduced many artists and works to calcified Western canons. He was also a trailblazer in roles that had historically been occupied by Europeans.

Deeply cosmopolitan and global in outlook, he was an intellectual visionary. His brilliant conceptual rigor was realized in exhibitions that often felt larger than life. His curatorial style was often a mash up, combining unexpected encounters between art, documentary, popular culture and the archive; between different media, and between past and present. In much of his practice, Enwezor surfaced the art histories that underpinned contemporary art. He pushed from below, from what was past, into the present. It was always turned over, recognizable but different.

I worked closely with Enwezor on three occasions. Each pointed to something of the character, impact and significance of the way he worked.

The first was the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale in 1997. Enwezor was the artistic director and I was a lackey working on the publications and conference. Enwezor came to South Africa with the intellectual weight of having co-founded Nka: Journal of Contemporary Africa Art a few years earlier. He was fresh off what is often considered to be his breakthrough curatorial project, In/sight: African Photographers, 1940 to the Present in New York.

Eschewing the long-held convention of organizing biennales around national pavilions, he worked with a team of curators to create a series of conceptually-focused exhibitions under the rubric of Trade Routes: History and Geography. He brought an unrelentingly global sensibility that finally ripped the local art world from the insulating effects of apartheid and especially the cultural boycott.

What he offered was something bigger than South Africa could handle. In what became a hallmark of Enwezor’s curatorial practice, the sky – and the exhibition’s opening date – seemed to be the only limits to what was possible. Overspending and budget shortfalls led to the early closure of the Biennale in early 1998. Suffice to say, Johannesburg has never offered an art biennale since.

The second occasion was The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945-1994 in Munich, Germany. I was part of a team of co-curators under Enwezor’s lead. He ventured everywhere in his art historical and curatorial practice, from conceptually driven shows to exhibitions of single artists. But his return to grappling with African histories and geographies, as well as situating them in the world, is resonant in exhibitions such as The Short Century.

Much has been made of Enwezor’s intellectual vision and rigor. More spitefully a great deal has been made of his personal ambition at the expense of the institutions where he worked. But little attention is given to how much the issues mattered to him. On the opening night of The Short Century, what I witnessed in his body language and tone of delivery glimpsed at the fuller extent of his emotional vulnerability, deep connection, and unrelenting conviction about what really mattered.

This preoccupation with putting Africa front and centre extended to a number of standalone publications. These include Reading the Contemporary: African Art, from Theory to the Marketplace (1999, with Olu Oguibe); one of the books for his Documenta exhibition, titled Under Seige: Four African Cities (Freetown, Johannesburg, Kinsasha and Lagos); and Contemporary African Art Since 1980 (2009, with Chika Okeke-Agulu).

I was always struck by how much Enwezor cherished his intellectual independence and freedom.

Some of the mega exhibitions tied him to institutions for substantial periods. He is the only curator to be appointed artistic director of both the quinquennial Documenta and Venice Biennale. But there were not many instances in which he wedded himself to institutions.

Two of the most prominent were a deanship at the San Francisco Art Institute (2005-2009), one of the oldest art schools in the US, and his directorship of Haus der Kunst (2011-2018), a modern and contemporary art museum in Munich. Both the institutions became platforms for radically advancing teaching, learning and collaboration, to realise a shared vision on an even larger scale.

The third occasion I worked with him was with on Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life, 1948-1994. We co-curated the exhibition. It brought documentary photographs into a conversation with artworks, films, newsreel footage, books, magazines and other archival documents.

As with so much of what Enwezor has done elsewhere, the exhibition was a moment to pause and reflect on the interconnection between a major historical event and the visuality that was in, between and around it. As with any exhibition that is ambitious, grand and sweeping, there are flaws and omissions. But what they do is that they create an inspirational and generative foundation for research that follows.

That Rise and Fall of Apartheid has been the foundation for a great deal of further research into South African photographic theory and histories underscores the extent to which an exhibition’s legacy matters so much.

What I will remember Okwui Enwezor for, more than anything else, is this hugely generative legacy of everything he has achieved.

Okwui Enwezor, curator and art historian, born 23 October 1963; died 15 March 2019.