Forty years on from the discovery of Mungo Man, what he represents is as pertinent now as ever
by Jim Bowler
“26 February 1974 was a historic day, one destined to change my life and affect the lives of many others. It was the day I encountered the eroding remains of Mungo Man on the shores of a distant and then unnamed lake basin in western New South Wales.
Five years earlier, on those same dry lake shores, I had happened upon the cremated remains of a young woman, now known as Mungo Lady. Her discovery established that fully modern humans had been in Australia for longer than any European expected. But just as significant were the complex ceremonial features of the burial of Mungo Man, which presented one of the dramatic mysteries of ancient human cultural development. His emergence 40 years ago was a special moment, the opening of an entirely new page in Australian history. The circumstances of that encounter help clarify understanding of who we are; they establish an ancient link with this land and our shared past.
In the summer of 1974, in geological pursuit of ice age climatic change, I was using dry lake basins as rain gauge records of past wet-dry climatic oscillations. Heavy rain had interrupted my excursions into what was an eroding wonderland, the large high-rimmed dune or lunette lining the eastern shores of the yet-to-be-named Lake Mungo. I was temporarily “confined to barracks” at Mungo station, the homestead and shearers’ quarters of the late Albert and Venda Barnes.
Eventually the rain stopped, the mud dried and the landscape brightened. Eager to explore surfaces refreshed by cleansing rains I hastened to the site of the earlier Mungo Lady discovery, the Joulni or southern sector of the big lunette, an area rich in items of archaeological and geological interest. While I was following a distinctive soil horizon, one that had already yielded many artefacts, the late afternoon sun highlighted a tiny patch of something white shining through a cover of expansive sand mantle. An immediate examination revealed what was obviously the domal part of a human skull. I brushed away sand to reveal that the jawbone was intact. This was part of an emerging body. Suddenly, and only 400 metres from the site of Mungo Lady, the number of human grave sites on the dunes was doubled” (read more).
Italian police have recovered a hoard of ancient Etruscan funerary urns and other treasures including bronze weapons which were originally found during building works and trafficked illegally.
Described by officials as one of the most important recoveries of Etruscan art ever, the haul included 23 funerary urns from a tomb complex in the area of modern Perugia belonging to an already-identified aristocratic family called the Cacni.
Nefertiti was the wife of the controversial 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Akhenaton (also known as Amenhotep IV). Akhenaten and Nefertiti lived during the thirteenth century BCE, and were responsible for the move of the Egyptian capital from Thebes to Amarna. The site of Amarna was excavated by Ludwig Borchardt of the German Oriental Institute from 1912 to 1914.
The Bust of Nefertiti
On December 6, 1912, the artifact known as the Bust of Nefertiti was excavated. It is 3300 years old, and it is a highly prized, if not unique piece because, unlike the majority of Egyptian sculpture, the Bust contains facial detailing*. After finding the Bust in the workshop of the sculptor Thutmose, Borchardt wrote in his diary that “Suddenly we had in our hands the most alive Egyptian artwork. You cannot describe it with words. You must see it.”
In 1913 Borchardt met with Egyptian officials to discuss the division of the artifacts unearthed in the Amarna dig. What took place in this meeting was not recorded until 1924. The secretary of the German Oriental Institute who had taken it upon himself to record it wrote that Borchardt had concealed the value of the Bust from Egyptian officials in order to “save the bust for us.”
He reported that Borchardt had shown the officials misleading photographs of the piece, and had given them inaccurate information about the material used to create the piece. This document fell into obscurity until 2009, when it was found by an art historian in the archives of the German Oriental Institute.
Following the meeting, the Bust was shipped to Germany and entered into the custody of James Simon, the sponsor of the excavation. Simon donated it to the Berlin Museum in 1920, and it was put on display to the public in 1924. Upon its 1924 unveiling, Egyptian officials immediately demanded that the artifact be returned. In 1925, Egypt threatened to ban German excavations unless it was returned.
In 1933, Hermann Goring had considered returning the Bust to King Farouk Fouad of Egypt, but Hitler opposed the idea, saying he would “never relinquish the head of the Queen.” The Bust remained on display in the Neues Museum in Berlin until the museum closed in 1939 at the onset of the Second World War. At that point, Berlin museums were emptied, and artifacts were moved to secure areas for safekeeping. The Bust was moved around to multiple safe locations over the course of that war until it was taken into custody by American troops in March of 1945.
The United States—which had had the Bust in display at the U.S. Central Collecting Point in Wiesbaden beginning in 1946—returned the Bust to West Berlin in 1956, at which point it was put on display at the Dahlem Museum. East Germany was unhappy with the move; they’d wanted the Bust returned to the Neues Museum (which had been badly damaged by an Allied bombing in 1943).
During the 1950’s, Egypt had attempted to re-open negotiations, but Germany was unresponsive and the United States simply told them to take it up with the German authorities. The Bust was moved around several times after this; in 1967, it was moved to the Egyptian Museum in Charlottenburg, in 2005 it was moved to the Altes Museum, and it was moved back to the Neues Museum upon its 2009 reopening.
Zahi Hawass, the former The Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, spent a great deal of the 21st century working to have the artifact returned to Egypt. He held that the Bust had been illegally removed from the country, and in 2005 he asked UNESCO to intervene in the situation. In 2007 he threatened to ban exhibitions of Egyptian artifacts in Germany if they would not lend the Bust to Egypt. He also called for a worldwide boycott on loans to German museums.
Within Germany, cultural groups and a fair few academics believe that the Bust should be returned to Egypt. In 2007, an organization called CulturCooperation based out of Hamburg handed out postcards depicting the Bust with the words “Return to Sender” written on them. They also wrote an open letter to the German Culture Minister, Bernd Neumann, regarding the Bust. Other groups within Germany hold that the Bust has become a definitive part of German culture, while German art experts refute the claims that the Bust was illegally removed from Egypt.
In the midst of these debates, German conservation experts raised the concern that the Bust is simply too fragile to survive a move to Egypt. Dietrich Wildung, head of Berlin’s Egyptian Museum, stated that “the structure of Nefertiti’s material, plaster over limestone, is very sensitive.” If the Bust were to be returned to Egypt, it is possible that it would not survive the journey.
*Facial and other such detailing may be found on the majority of the art produced during the Amarna period.
Members of the Canadian Forces stand in silence as they wait for pallbearers to emerge during the repatriation of Master Corporal Byron Garth Greff at 8 Wing Trenton.
Pallbearers carry the body of Master Corporal Byron Garth Greff towards the waiting hearse during repatriation ceremonies at 8 Wing Trenton. MCpl Greff of the Third Battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was killed by a vehicle-borne IED in Kabul on October 29.
Keller Gref, son of the late Master Corporal Byron Garth Greff prepares to lay a rose on his father’s casket.
Defence Minister Peter McKay and Governor General David Johnston look on as family members lay roses on the casket of Master Corporal Byron Garth Greff
A group of First Nations elders from the Yukon took a walk back in time during a recent visit to the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa where they identified artifacts that had been sold off or stolen from their communities.
As the world celebrates the centennial of its discovery, Nevine El-Aref asks who actually owns the iconic bust of Queen Nefertiti?
It seems that there is no foreseeable resolution to the long conflict between Germany and Egypt over ownership of the 3,400-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti, wife of the monotheistic pharaoh Akhenaten. Now, a century after its discovery, the dispute over ownership is stepping from one level to another, and with no concrete solution in sight it has become one of the best-known international cases of stolen antiquities that Egypt wants back.
The magnificent painted stucco and limestone bust of Nefertiti was discovered in 1912 by an archaeological team led by German Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt and sponsored by the German Oriental Society (DOG), the treasurer of which was the German Jewish wholesale merchant James Simon. The bust was unearthed while the German team was excavating the workshop of the ancient Egyptian court sculptor Tuthmosis in Akhenaten’s capital city of Al-Amarna. Along with it were other unfinished artefacts, including a polychrome bust of the queen and plaster casts representing other members of Akhenaten’s family and entourage. It meant that bust, as well as the other objects, never went on display and was damaged during its creation or was used as a model and was never indented for view.
Sheddiq went on to say that, according to the documented evidence and Borchardt’s diary, he noted the importance of the artefact on the first day of the discovery. This should have led to his placing it in the collection of the Egyptian Antiquities Service according to the Antiquities Law at that time, No. 14 of 1912. The rules of sharing applicable at that time stipulated that repeated and common spoils of any new discovery be split between the Egyptian antiquities authority and the foreign mission concerned, while unique and distinguished artefacts must be placed in the Egyptian share.
Borchardt either did not declare the bust, or hid it under less important objects. Or it is possible that the Egyptian authorities failed to recognise its importance – as the Germans claimed – when Borchardt described the bust in the division protocol as a gypsum statue of an unknown princess of the royal family.
LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Archaeological Society has received a $63,000 grant to document and return human remains and cultural objects to their native people.
The grant announced Wednesday was among $1.5 million awarded nationwide by the National Park Service under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The grants were awarded to museums, Indian tribes and Alaska native villages.
National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis says more than 10,000 Native American human remains and 1 million sacred objects have been returned to tribes and native organizations under the program.
The program requires museums and federal agencies to inventory and identify Native American human remains and cultural items in their collections. (source)
For seven years, the Department of Defense has faked repatriations where military personnel carry honored dead soldiers off of planes as part of their ceremonial return to the U.S.
While the Pentagon insists the coffins indeed contain the remains of MIA soldiers returned to America from foreign wars, it now admits that the Hawaii arrival ceremonies often attended by a tearful audience aren’t actually arrivals at all.
In fact, the coffins are toted out of planes that can no longer even fly, but must be towed onto the runway for the phony ceremonies and the remains have sometimes been back in the country for months.
Amazing letter reveals for the first time how Titanic owners demanded huge sums from grieving families to be reunited with bodies of ship’s crew
An astonishing letter from the Titanic’s owners to the family of a dead officer asking for a huge sum of money to return his dead body to England has been uncovered 103 years on from the tragedy.The letter, dated May 7, 1912, was sent from White Star Lines to Christopher Moody, the brother of 24-year-old officer James Moody, who died after the Titanic hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage.In it, company bosses demand £20 - the equivalent of £2,000 in today’s money - to return his body to England, and state that Christopher Moody will have to pick up the tab from there.
America Cannot Afford Another Tax Holiday for Corporations Offshoring Profits and Jobs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 13, 2011
Groups Representing Over 17 Million Taxpayers from Across the Country Send a Message
WASHINGTON – As Congress wrestles with a number of tax-related issues to close out the year, faith-based, small business, union and public interest organizations from California to Maine sent a letter to Senate and House leaders railing against a tax break that previously failed to produce jobs and largely benefited a small percentage of corporations. Not to be confused with the payroll tax holiday for workers, the corporate tax holiday would allow businesses to pay an extremely low rate of tax for money (5.25%) kept offshore – rewarding those who keep jobs and profits outside of the U.S. The groups who sent the letter, representing over 17 million taxpayers, stand in square opposition to the large corporations and their lobbyists who seek this sizable tax break.
Think tanks and organizations from across the political spectrum have continued to debunk the myths that any corporate tax holiday will benefit the government, taxpayers, job creators or workers. In fact, they argue it would make matters worse.
An excerpt from the letter, which is also signed by government transparency, tax, human rights, anti-corruption, environmental and economic justice groups, reads:
“If Congress repeats the 2004 holiday, multinational corporations will quite rightfully expect that another holiday will be enacted in a few years. They will have enormous incentive to engage in ever more aggressive tax schemes that move their profits to foreign jurisdictions. In fact, the 20 companies who repatriated the most earnings under the 2004 holiday are already anticipating the next holiday – they now have three times as much in foreign profits parked offshore as they did at the end of 2005.
We urge you to reject the proposals for a repatriation holiday. The multinationals who are lobbying hard for this tax break offer numerous reasons why you should give them this generous reprieve. But their plea for a repatriation holiday is nothing more than a blatant attempt to escape their tax obligations and shift the burden onto the taxpaying American public.”