Sunday, May 06, 2007
The day's controversy.
That's the world famous bust of Nefertiti, originally dug up in Amarna (if my memory is reliable, but definitely in Egypt) and now residing in the Berlin Museum, Germany. What's it doing in Germany? Damn good question. A German dude originally dug it up and took it home. It was finders-keepers in grave robbing (I'm not calling it archeology) up until about 1920. The finding of Tut's Tomb finally made the government step in and stop the massive removal of antiquities from the country. Though there was still a lot of smuggling going on, continuing until now.
Zahi Hawass, director of antiquities for the country of Egypt, wants to borrow it for the opening of the new wing of the Cairo Museum in 2010. Germany is - get this - saying no. They claim it's too fragile to move. (IF it's too fragile to move, it's due to bad conservation and there are many things that could be done to stabilize it. Not to mention archeologists schlepped King Tut around the planet decades ago, and some of that stuff was pretty fragile.) Zahi has countered with refusing to ever loan antiquities from Egypt to Germany ever again, and threatening to not loan antiquities to any other country that works with Germany. Plus a ban on Germans excavating in Egypt, etc etc. Basically he's gonna fuck with them as much as he's able, and being pretty damn influential, that's a lot.
So here's the obvious question: If the country of origin of artifacts (in this case, Egypt) is capable of taking proper care of their history, should other museums around the world give back their stuff? Or is it finders-keepers? (I'm not saying we should give back antiquities from countries that are currently selling off the contents of their museums anyway. But for countries that are stable and have the ability to care for the stuff, why can't they have their stuff back?)
Personally I think early 'archeologists' were nothing more than grave robbers and all the stuff should be given back. More modern stuff that was excavated with the agreement of the Egyptian government is okay, but that early stuff was stolen. Give it back. At least to the countries capable of taking care of their stuff. (Turkey should get the stuff from Troy back, too. And they're getting pretty pissed about it being in Russia.)
Details on the Nefertiti argument here.
Listing of articles about it, here.
Troy treasure details, here. Which is as much a story of theft as any I've ever read. Schliemann was a grandstanding theif, not an archeologist. (Okay, so I've got strong opinions on this. Everyone who knows about it does.)
How's that for a nice break from knitting?
at 8:48 AM