Archive for March, 2012


WikiLoot: the Knight Foundation News Networks Challenge

Chasing Aphrodite (Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino) have proposed the establishment of WikiLoot, an ‘open source web platform, or wiki, for the publication and analysis of a unique archive of primary source records and photographs documenting the illicit trade in looted antiquities’.

It’s being discussed on Facebook. I’ve thought about it. And I’ve discussed it with colleagues who work in source countries (the victims of looting, theft and the collateral damage of the illicit antiquities trade). This proposal shows real promise.

The Knight Foundation News Networks Challenge ‘seeks projects that use the best of existing software and platforms – those already integrated into people’s lives – to find new ways to convey news and information‘. Felch and Frammolino have submitted WikiLoot for consideration for the Knight Foundation award. Good luck, WikiLoot!


According to the Archaeological Association of Nigeria (AAN), I am ‘an attack dog for the Germans’; and ‘cheap’!

The Archaeological Association of Nigeria (AAN) accused German archaeologists of looting; then the Goethe University, Frankfurt archaeologists refuted the allegations; then the AAN repeated its claims.

An attack dog for the Germans

Now, the President of the AAN, Dr. Zacharys Anger Gundu, has commented on my review of the AAN’s repeated claims…

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The AAN has repeated its allegations of Frankfurt archaeologists looting in Nigeria; but it has provided no evidence

I have the AAN’s response to the Frankfurt archaeologists’ defence.

It is an eight-page response, so this is a tl;dr post (of more than 2,500 words). I’ve included a depressing summary for those who can’t face the depressing whole; or, a reassuring summary for those who can’t be bothered with the reassuring whole.

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damage to political, and politicised, buildings in Greece on 24th March 2012

Kathimerini has reported ‘minor damage’ to the Information Society Department of the Interior Ministry in Athens; unknown persons exploded camping gas canisters outside the building early in the morning of the 24th of March 2012.

Other unknown persons started a fire outside one of PASOK MP Sofia Giannaka’s family’s houses in Agrinio; it also caused minor damage (‘[n]o major damage’). However, regardless of their connections with politicians, violent attacks on families’ homes are inexcusable; they are a bad sign of the deterioration of the situation in Greece.


Why are many countries in Africa vulnerable to looting, and how can they defend themselves?

In Mali, antiquities dealers employ ‘[w]hole villages and encampments of immigrant workers’ to strip-mine archaeological sites (Shyllon, 2011: 139). In 2002, 56,000 looted Egyptian antiquities were seized in a single operation – unsurprisingly, in London (Shyllon, 2011: 136). Of the 35 places on the List of World Heritage in Danger, 15 are in Africa (though only 3 of those are cultural heritage sites).

African nations are some of the richest in archaeological resources, some of the most vulnerable to looting from archaeological sites and theft from museums, and some of the least able to prevent smuggling and illicit export. Here, I want to review why.

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German archaeologists refute allegations of looting Nok culture in Nigeria

In my last post, I queried recent claims of German archaeologists looting Nigerian archaeological sites. One of those archaeologists, Prof. Peter Breunig, was kind enough to send me their letter to the Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAfA), which confirmed my suspicions.

So, I have uploaded the German archaeologists’ refutations of Nigerian archaeologists’ accusations of looting (DOC), and I have summarised the facts of the matter here.

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German archaeologists looting Nigerian archaeological sites, or rescuing them?

Recently, there have been reports that German archaeologists loot Nigerian artefacts; and that German corporations help.(1) They repeat five claims: first, that German archaeologists run the looting in Nigeria; second, that German corporations fund the looting; third, that corrupt state officials participate in the plunder of the country; fourth, that half of the artefacts in Nigerian museums are fakes; and fifth, that the Nigerian cultural heritage profession is unable to protect the country’s cultural resources.

Here, I will summarise all five claims, but I want to concentrate on the first, most explosive one, that German archaeologists bribe local communities for access to archaeological sites, then loot them. (Hat tip, @looted_heritage and its crowdmap; and @arttheft.)  It appears to be partly a misunderstanding, partly a misrepresentation.

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sex trafficking and sex slavery at cultural heritage sites in Cyprus: Karavostasi/Gemikonağı

The other day, I read Skin Trade Exposed, Harry van Versendaal’s (@denk_ik) interview with Bulgarian photographer, film-maker, lecturer and investigative journalist Mimi Chakarova. It’s a great interview, covering how Chakarova does and presents her research, and why; and how she relates with the women involved (she objects to the term ‘subject’).  (Elsewhere, she’s given a talk on going undercover; and there’s a website for the project, the Price of Sex.)

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assessing the ACCI assessment of destruction in Greece on 12th February

Immediately after the 12th February protests and riots, I collected evidence of as many specific incidents of property damage/destruction as possible. Here, I want to query the standard account of the attacks on property.  I think it has three problems: it under-counts the number of banks attacked; it excludes the political buildings attacked; and it cannot take account of the places not damaged, not targeted violently, or not targeted at all.

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I’ve corrected Rachel Donadio and New York Times but they’ve not corrected article on arson on 12th February, Greece

The New York Times‘ eyewitness reporter Rachel Donadio inaccurately described,

Feb. 12, a wild night when marauding bands of arsonists with Molotov cocktails targeted shops and buildings, most of them historic….

As more than 6,000 policemen stood guard, these roving bands – several dozen criminals, by official estimates – infiltrated a vast, largely peaceful demonstration of more than 80,000 people and pushed the city into mayhem.

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