Four archaeologists were among nearly 200 people from six Chinese provinces recently arrested for raiding ancient tombs and selling an estimated $80 million worth of antiquities on the black market, the Beijing Times reported.
The ancient Roman city of Palmyra in Syria has been seized by ISIS fighters, fueling fears that its ancient artifacts and buildings could meet the same fate suffered by antiquities in Mosul, Nimrud, and Hatra.
Six Palestinians were indicted in an Israeli court with illegal digging for antiquities on December 7, Haaretz reported.
Everyone knows that classical sculpture is white. Think of the gleaming marble of artworks like the Belvedere Torso and “Laocoön and His Sons” — the whiteness imparts a kind of purity, a sense of being the ground zero of Western culture, the original from which an entire civilization’s canon has sprung.
This week, we learned that two important Cambodian sandstone sculptures from the 10th century — one in the collection of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, and the other seized from Sotheby’s New York in 2012 — will be returned to the Kingdom of Cambodia after being looted in the 1970s.
Year after year, the demands come from foreign governments, landing on the directors’ desks at some of the major museums in the United States: give us back our looted antiquities. And, after some delays and in some instances the assistance of the US State Department, these antiquities are being returned.
The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Loretta E. Lynch, has filed a complaint for the forfeiture of an ancient Roman marble sarcophagus lid featuring a sculpture of a sleeping woman on a couch. The lid was found in a storage facility in Queens and is believed to have been stolen from Italy by convicted antiquities dealer Gianfranco Becchina.
On February 2nd, a post published on now-Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass’s blog categorically stated: “I would like the people of the world to know that today all of the Egyptian monuments are safe.” The post assures us that no major Egyptian archaeological sites have been seriously damaged besides the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, at the epicenter of the protests that recently overthrew Mubarak’s government (of which Zahi Hawass was a prominent part). Oh, but there was also the “looting of the storage magazine in Qantara,” during which an unknown amount of antiquities were stolen, though 288 were reportedly returned. Hawass’s blog gives a uniquely skewed perspective on Egyptian lootings over the past weeks, not to be trusted, but certainly not to be discounted either.
In a plot worthy of Indiana Jones (or maybe Angelina Jolie in a B-movie), Italian police have apprehended a man attempting to smuggle a suspicious sculpture out of Lake Nemi in the south of Rome. After examination of the statue and questioning of the thief, authorities have determined that the sculpture was stolen from Emperor Caligula’s lost tomb, a previously undiscovered site.