UN nations agree to action to save Iraqi cultural sites

NEW YORK (AFP).- UN member-states on Thursday declared that the destruction by jihadists of Iraqi cultural sites may amount to war crimes and agreed to take steps to curb the trade of stolen ancient artifacts.

The General Assembly adopted a resolution on saving Iraq’s cultural sites as international concern mounted over the fate of the Syrian archeological site of Palmyra captured by Islamic State fighters a week ago.

Videos of IS combatants destroying artifacts at the Mosul museum and smashing sledgehammers into ancient walls at Hatra and Nimrud sparked an outcry and calls to prevent the “cultural cleansing” of the Middle East.

The non-binding resolution drafted by Germany and Iraq condemns the “barbaric” destruction and looting of heritage sites and calls for the prosecution of perpetrators of cultural vandalism. Read more.

The Museum was able to purchase this important relief by meticulously following the international agreements controlling the import and export of antiquities. Strict legal requirements govern the acquisition of ancient artifacts, including proof of provenance, to help prevent the looting of ancient sites. Our curators were able to document the relief’s history of successive ownership by two Swiss collectors (one of them a psychoanalyst), satisfying the legal provisions.”— #ArnoldLehman

[Relief of Mourning Women, 381-343 B.C.E.] #BKMEgyptianart

A medieval manuscript that was peed on by a cat 

Scribe was forced to leave the rest of the page empty, drew a picture of a cat and cursed the creature with the following words:

“Hic non defectus est, sed cattus minxit desuper nocte quadam. Confundatur pessimus cattus qui minxit super librum istum in nocte Daventrie, et consimiliter omnes alii propter illum. Et cavendum valde ne permittantur libri aperti per noctem ubi cattie venire possunt.”

[Here is nothing missing, but a cat urinated on this during a certain night. Cursed be the pesty cat that urinated over this book during the night in Deventer and because of it many others [other cats] too. And beware well not to leave open books at night where cats can come.]

Cologne, Historisches Archiv, G.B. quarto, 249, fol. 68r

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Ancient artefacts unearthed at Bahrain Fort

Ancient artefacts dating back thousands of years have been unearthed in Bahrain Fort.

A clay tablet bearing ancient cuneiform script dating back to between 503 BC and 504 BC was discovered during a seven-week excavation in the southwestern side of the fort, along with a golden plate that has a figure of a woman engraved on it believed to belong to the era between 1 BC and 1 AD, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

Archaeologists working for the French Archaeological Mission in Bahrain discovered that the tablet was used to document contracts using the Akkadian language, which was the trade language in the Middle East at the time.Read more.


Personal objects found in mass graves in Bosnia, as photographed by Ziyah Gafić (see his TED Talk here)

Once all the missing persons are identified, only decaying bodies in their graves and these everyday items will remain. In all their simplicity, these items are the last testament to the identity of the victims, the last permanent reminder that these people ever existed.

US returns 25 looted artifacts to Italy

ROME (AP) — The United States on Tuesday officially returned 25 artifacts looted over the decades from Italy, including Etruscan vases, 1st-century frescoes and precious books that ended up in U.S. museums, universities and private collections.

Italy has been on a campaign to recover looted artifacts, using the courts and public shaming to compel museums and collectors to return them, and has won back several important pieces.

The items Tuesday were either spontaneously turned over to U.S. authorities or seized by police after investigators noticed them in Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction catalogues, gallery listings, or as a result of customs searches, court cases or tips. Read more.

New IS video shows militants smashing ancient Iraq artifacts

The Islamic State group released a video on Thursday showing militants using sledgehammers to smash ancient artifacts in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, describing the relics as idols that must be removed.

The destruction are part of a campaign by the IS extremists who have destroyed a number of shrines—including Muslim holy sites—in order to eliminate what they view as heresy. They are also believed to have sold ancient artifacts on the black market in order to finance their bloody campaign across the region.

The five-minute video shows a group of bearded men inside the Mosul Museum using hammers and drills to destroy several large statues, which are then shown chipped and in pieces. The video then shows a black-clad man at a nearby archaeological site inside Mosul, drilling through and destroying a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 7th century B.C. Read more.