Tag Archives: Looting

Artifacts at Ancient Olympia Stolen at Gunpoint

Thieves robbed the museum at Olympia (the site of the ancient Olympic Games). Two armed masked men smashed display cases and grabbed priceless artifacts (at least 60) after overpowering guards at the museum.

In the wake of the chaos of Greece’s financial crisis, violent crime (targeting art) has skyrocketed. To read more about the theft, see the article at BBC News.

“Treasure of Benghazi” Stolen From Tumultuous Libya

After the death of Muammar Gaddafi  has provided a brief respite for Libyans. As the civilization begins to take a catalogue, one of the greatest heists in history has been publicized. The so called “Treasure of Benghazi,” the world’s largest collection of gold and silver coins (many dating to the time of Alexander the Great) have gone missing from a bank vault in Libya.

Antiquities dealers believe this could be the largest archaeological heist in history. Some have speculated the the looted coins are now in Egypt. To learn more about this, see the article in the BBC or the Sydney Morning Herald.

Update on Libya’s Antiquities

In the wake of the civil unrest in the Libya, the state of its antiquities has been cause for concern for scholars and archaeologists. Due to the current political state, independent reporters and UNESCO investigators cannot travel to the state to verify their status.

Libya has a wealth of historical material, prehistory, Carthaginian, Phoenician, Greek, Roman, and more modern amenities. Such sites are often of little to no concern during bloody coups when people are most concerned about basic survival.

We know that artifacts have already been stolen, and UNESCO has issued statements to auctions houses warning them to be on high alert for looted antiquities (see the article on BBC). Native archaeologists have already begun to petition the provisional government to take special efforts to preserve sites and artifacts. CNN has issued a special report on Libya’s “other wealth” and you can read more about here.

The Fall of Zahi Hawass (via Smithsonian)

On the wake of the recent Zahi Hawass story, Smithsonian Magazine has done an in-depth analysis of the man, the politics, and the state of Egypt.

The Fall of Zahi Hawass – The Smithsonian Magazine

It is not as dramatic as the collapse of an ancient Egyptian dynasty, but the abrupt fall of Zahi Hawass is sending ripples around the planet. The archaeologist who has been in charge of Egypt’s antiquities for nearly a decade has been abruptly sacked in an overhaul of the country’s cabinet.

The antipathy toward Hawass in Egypt may be difficult to grasp in the West, where he is typically found on American television, fearlessly tracking down desert tombs, unearthing mummies and bringing new life to Egypt’s dusty past. But in Egypt he has been a target of anger among young protesters who helped depose President Hosni Mubarak in February. Hawass had been accused of corruption, shoddy science and having uncomfortably close connections with the deposed president and first lady⎯all of which he has vociferously denied. Many young archaeologists also are demanding more jobs and better pay⎯and they complain Hawass has failed to deliver. “He was the Mubarak of antiquities,” said Nora Shalaby, a young Egyptian archaeologist who has been active in the revolution.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/The-Fall-of-Zahi-Hawass.html#ixzz1SUm4yKHA


Statue of Roman Emperor Caligula Discovered in Italy

A statue of the Roman Emperor Caligula was recently uncovered at an illegal dig in Italy. There are fewer statues of the Roman Emperor as he suffered a damnatio memoriae (erasure of his name from history) by the Senate shortly after his assassination.

The site is located at Nemi, south of the city of Rome, where Caligula was known to have luxurious retreat. Archaeologists recovered the statue in January after the Italian government stopped an illegal dig at the location. You can read more about the statue and the excavation in this Discovery News article.

Smithsonian Postpones Belitung Exhibit in the Midst of Controversy

The Smithsonian Museum’s Sackler Gallery has formally postponed its exhibit of the Belitung shipwreck in order to address the controversy surrounding the artifacts origins from a looted shipwreck site. I have posted earlier about the controversy (see this earlier article for context) – the American Institute of Archaeology issued a formal statement condemning the exhibition.

The Washington Post reports that the museum’s curator, Julian Raby, has formally put the exhibit on hold to further consult with professional archaeologists and organizations. The concern for displaying artifacts procured via looting is that it continues to support the illegal trade and furthers the demand for materials regardless of the legality in how the objects are obtained. To read more about the decision, check out the Washington Post article.