Africa

The man who returned his grandfather’s looted art

“The man who returned his grandfather’s looted art”

by Ellen Otzen via “BBC News

Captain Walker, seated, on the right, in Benin City after British troops looted the palace

At the end of the 19th Century British troops looted thousands of works of art from the Benin Empire – in modern-day Nigeria – and brought them home. One soldier’s grandson inherited two bronzes but recently returned them to their original home.

“It’s an image that’s deeply ingrained in my memory. The dead body seemed unreal. It’s not a picture you can easily forget,” says Mark Walker.

He was 12 years old when he first saw his grandfather’s diary – the photographs inside made a deep impression.

“They were very faded, but perhaps the most shocking one for me was a partly dried-up body being held up by two men on a pole.

“Clearly the people lifting the body didn’t actually want to touch it and that seemed to me to capture the feeling my grandfather also had about them. It was something so horrible you wanted to keep it at arm’s length,” says Mark.

The pictures were taken by his grandfather, Capt Herbert Walker, in West Africa in 1897.

The two Walkers never met – Herbert died in 1932, 15 years before his grandson was born and Mark’s grandmother showed him the journal, titled To Benin and back, while he was staying with her in 1959.

The diary cover

The Benin Kingdom, which is now part of Nigeria, had a wealth of natural resources including ivory, palm oil and rubber which the UK was keen to control.

Mark Walker spoke to Witness on BBC World Service Radio

But in January 1897, seven British officials who were on their way to see the Oba of Benin – the king – were killed in an ambush.

The Times of London reported that the men “on quite a peaceful mission” had been “massacred by the King’s people”.

Map of Nigeria showing location of Benin City

It is unclear who, if anyone, ordered the killings and there are indications that the mission was not as peaceful as the British press described it. Although its leader, acting Consul-General James Phillips had sent a message to the Oba asking to discuss trade and peace, he had told London he wanted to depose him.

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Details on lost Ancient Egyptian queen’s tomb emerge

“Details on lost Ancient Egyptian queen’s tomb emerge”

via “Daily News Egypt

Czech archaeological team and AUC professor discover tomb of an Ancient Egyptian queen at the Abusir necropolis, southwest of Cairo

The inscriptions on the tomb identified the queen  as “king’s wife” as well as “mother of the king” (Photo handout from AUC)

New insights have come to light into the history of a lost ancient queen discovered earlier this year at the Abusir necropolis, southwest of Cairo.

The insights come as part of work done by Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology and head of the Egyptology unit at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and a Czech archaeological team.

The site of the queen’s tomb, which the Czechs have been excavating for the past 55 years, now offers insight into understanding the royal family’s history during the Old Kingdom.

“What is fascinating about the tomb are the inscriptions, because they show that this is a completely new member of the royal family of the Fifth Dynasty,” said Miroslav Barta, director of the Czech Institute of Egyptology.

Within the tomb, the inscriptions identified her as “king’s wife” as well as “mother of the king” according to an AUC press release. The inscriptions on her burial chamber also bore the name “Khentkaus”, which means “the one foremost of her souls”. The fact that two previous queens had the same name, along with the aforementioned inscriptions, indicates that the women who was laid to rest was in fact a queen.

The archaeological team discovered 24 limestone vessels, copper tools and small fragments of bone. (Photo handout from AUC)

Adding the queen to the lineage of ancient Egyptian royalty makes her Queen Khentkaus III, who, according to Barta, was most likely married to King Raneferef because of the proximity of her tomb is his.

Further investigation of the tomb has helped archaeologists understand the role that women held in ancient Egypt.

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Tomb of previously unknown pharaonic queen found in Egypt

“Tomb of previously unknown pharaonic queen found in Egypt”

via “AFP

Czech archaeologists have unearthed the tomb of a previously unknown queen believed to have been the wife of Pharaoh Neferefre who ruled 4,500 years ago, officials in Egypt said Sunday.

The tomb was discovered in Abu Sir, an Old Kingdom necropolis southwest of Cairo where there are several pyramids dedicated to pharaohs of the Fifth Dynasty, including Neferefre.

The name of his wife had not been known before the find, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty said in a statement.

He identified her as Khentakawess, saying that for the “first time we have discovered the name of this queen who had been unknown before the discovery of her tomb”.

That would make her Khentakawess III, as two previous queens with the same name have already been identified.

Her name and rank had been inscribed on the inner walls of the tomb, probably by the builders, Damaty said. . .

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Two historic statues lost in Libya’s Tripoli

“Two historic statues lost in Libya’s Tripoli”

via “Xinhuanet

TRIPOLI, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) — Unidentified men have hid a historic statue of Omar Al-Mukhtar, a historic figure, in the Libyan capital Tripoli, an official in the Libyan Antiquities Authority announced on Sunday.

Omar Al-Mukhtar is a hero and the leader of the Libyan resistance against the Italian regime for 20 years in the 1920’s and 30’s. The statue was placed in front of the headquarters of the municipal council of Al-Maya region on the coastal road west of Tripoli.

“The archaeological statue disappeared in mysterious circumstances similar to the circumstances in which another archaeological statue, known the gazelle statue, one of the most important historical monuments located in downtown Tripoli, disappeared.” said the official, who requested anonymity.

The statue, known in Tripoli as gazelle statue, it is a small fountain with a statue of nude woman holding a deer. The fountain was designed by the Italian artist Angelo Vanity in early 1930s during the Italian occupation of Libya.

“The statue was uprooted from its place by an unknown group in early hours of Tuesday, most likely because of the nudity features of the statue, which are rejected for religious reasons.” Witnesses told Xinhua.

Several similar threats were issued earlier. In October, the statue was targeted by an RPG missile, causing damage. In 2012, Islamist militants threatened to remove it.

On the other hand, an explosion on last Monday destroyed a historic shrine in the Libyan capital. The shrine, located next to a mosque, is over 700 years old and is officially registered within the Libyan monuments.

Libya is a country rich in cultural and human heritage of Greek and Roman civilizations. However, the country has been unstable since the overthrow of former Muammar Gaddafi regime in 2011.

The capital and several other Libyan cities witnessed similar attacks targeting religious monuments and shrines by Islamist groups described by the Libyan authorities as extremists.

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NJ Rhino Horn Smuggling Case ~ Outcome

I know I’m a little late to the table on the whole “Ivory-banning” topic, but a case was just settled on the issue, so I thought it was an interesting share.   Message To Leave With–Ivory of all kind is pretty much forboten in the States right now. So don’t try smuggling in or out anything made of Rhino or Elephant ivory; you risk a hefty fine and/or prison time.  

A little (Super-Simplified) background on the laws themselves:

Endangered Species Act (1973)–>More or less stated that protecting our “natural heritage” (as opposed to  artifacts/art/man-made heritage) was an important duty for Americans. It went on to begin outlining basic legal protections for the “native plants and animals” that were considered endangered or on the verge of extinction.  Out of this came the:

African Elephant Conservation Act (1989)–> This act acknowledged that African elephants (and because they are “indistinguishable,” Asian Elephants) were on the verge of extinction (note the link here they made to previous law). Furthermore, the “illegal trade” was a large part of the problem, and the US had a responsibility to put a stop to such trade on its own shores.  Take note: sport hunting was left out in this act as being OK. Thus, you just needed to prove that your ivory/Elephant parts came from sport hunting instead of poaching, and you were all good.  Closely linked to and resembling this act was the soon to follow:

Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act (1994)–> As with the Elephant Act, the Rhino & Tiger Act started by stating that the Rhinos and Tigers were (under the Endangered Species Act definitions) considered to be endangered.  And once again, the “illegal trade” was most of the problem, and the US had a responsibility here to stop such trade.  Exact wording:  “A person shall not sell, import, or export, or attempt to sell, import, or export, any product, item, or substance intended for human consumption or application containing, or labeled or advertised as containing, any substance derived from any species of rhinoceros or tiger.”  

 This one went a little further in that the US had signed a contract with a bunch of other countries that it would actually destroy any stockpiles of Rhino horns that it found. Personally, I think this was a massive waste of ivory that didn’t benefit the Rhinos and only boosted the black market for their horns (where there is less of an item, more and more people want it).  Whatever you believe, this was a huge situation between US and Chinese/Taiwanese wildlife exporters.  The US actually put into place a ban on Taiwanese exports of wildlife into the US in 1994 because Taiwan had not changed their rules enough to suit the US government.  Nonetheless, there was still a  loophole for sport hunting or “legally taken trophies” here.  This meant that all the little “buddhas” or trinkets made out of ivory, or even the old pianos that had real ivory keys, were still okay for transport if you could show that they weren’t poached ivory.

Everything moved along, with minor disputes arising as to what was ivory, how bad the penalties should be etc. Then the next major change actually showed up this year (2014).  

February 11, 2014, the Department of Interior announced that it was going to officially ban ALL Commercial trade of Ivory in an effort to stop poaching.  This meant that it was taking away the little “Sport hunting”/”Legal Trophy” loophole that was left by previous laws.  It would impact all ivory taken from African Elephants and Rhinos.   Their argument was that the ivory trade was increasing; I would argue that this was a direct result of the rising demand for a suddenly “rare” commodity such as the governments had created with their previous bans.  

PROBLEM: suddenly, picking up little buddha or ivory trinket during your layover in India wasn’t quite so safe as it had been.  It was now going to be illegal to trade in pretty much any type of Ivory. The only exceptions were a “narrow class of antiques” already protected under the original Endangered Species Act (see how the lawyers intertwined these laws!) and those ivory pieces you already owned. Basically, you had to prove that you were exempt and this requirement was getting fairly strict (it had to be imported into the US before 1990 for African Elephant Ivory and 1975 for Asian Elephants).

This has potentially serious impacts on a ton of cultural resources, which is why you are probably still seeing quite a few articles discussing the situation.

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Now, with that extensive background, I bring you the recently decided NJ Rhino Horn Smuggling Case.

In December 2013, Zhifei Li, a Chinese citizen and owner of “Overseas Treasure Finding, pled guilty to smuggling rhinoceros horns from the United States into China.  He apparently paid three different antiquities dealers to assist him in exporting around thirty rhino horns and “objects” made from rhino and elephant horns.  Altogether, the items were worth approximately $4.5 million.  He has just been sentenced to six years in prison and a $3.5 million fine.

Mr. Li was officially tried under the older, pre-2014 amended laws.  But now with the changes, those laws could apply to you to.  So, as I said at the beginning, don’t try bringing in or out anything made of Rhino or Elephant ivory; it’s not worth the battle.