Showing posts with label Turkey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Turkey. Show all posts

October 6, 2017

Recovered by Turkish security forces: Two artworks by "Hoca" Ali Rıza stolen from the Ankara State Museum of Paintings and Sculpture


In August 2012 Hurriyet Daily News highlighted a report produced by Turkey's Culture and Tourism Ministry that examined more than 5,000 artworks in the country's State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara.  In that report, the ministry identified that it was unable to account for more than 200 artworks from the museum and that several of the pieces apparently missing had subsequently been replaced with poor quality reproductions to disguise their removal.  

Some of the works stolen included artwork by highly valued Turkish artists such as Şevket Dağ, Şefik Bursalu, Zühtü Müridoğlu, Hikmet Ona, and "Hoca" Ali Rıza. 

State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara
When the news of the theft went public, experts and common citizens alike complained that the museum, like many in many countries, did not have an adequate inventory system in place to track and account for artworks moving in and out of the museum and the museum's storage areas.  This vulnerability, it was partially reasoned, worked in the thieves favor. 

A subsequent investigation into the scandal brought 18 individuals in for questioning and three individuals were formally charged and sentenced to prison for their involvement in the affair. 

Cross checks conducted during this investigation revealed that some of the artwork originally listed as missing had instead been loaned out by the museum to government officials to decorate various governmental ministries and unauthorized buildings without proper documentation to account for their transfer.  Adjusting the loss number for artworks later identified off-site, the total number of objects was reduced to 180, and until this week, only sixty-four have been recovered.

Recovered "Hoca" Ali Rıza drawing I 
Yesterday, two drawings by Turkish painter and art teacher "Hoca" Ali Rıza, were seized by Turkish security forces from an art gallery in Istanbul with one individual being taken into custody for questioning.  A artist from the late Ottoman era, Riza is primarily known for his Impressionist landscapes which captured Turkish neighborhoods and architectural elements.  13 of his sketches are known to have been stolen and exchanged with forged replicas.

Recovered "Hoca" Ali Rıza drawing II


March 24, 2017

Repatriation: Roman sarcophagus held at Swiss Freeport finally clears last hurdle for its return to Turkey

Image taken September 23, 2015
by the Office of the Attorney General of the Canton of Geneva - Image Credit: AFP
In December 2010, Swiss Federal Customs Administration authorities, acting under new customs legislation to combat trafficking in works of art, requested access to the inventory of Phoenix Ancient Art SA., a major supplier of museum-quality antiquities, which stores ancient works of art at the Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève, a freeport located in a sprawling grey industrial building on the corner of a busy junction in southwest Geneva. 

For more information about freeports as a tax free haven to store art, please see a few of ARCA's earlier blog posts here, here, and here

At the time of the audit, authorities inspected the holdings of both Phoenix Ancient Art and its warehouseman and freight forwarder, Inanna Art Services.  During this inspection, Swiss authorities discovered, but didn't physically seize, a 1-2 ton, 150-180 CE Roman sarcophagus which depicted the twelve labours of the ancient Greek war deity, Hercules. According to customs information on file for the antiquity, the sarcophagus was imported into Switzerland in the name of Phoenix Ancient Art, which often used Inanna Art Services to store its goods or to transport works of art to and from other countries. 

This extraordinary ancient funerary object, likely only one of four of this significant quality documented in the ancient art world, had little in the way of detailed provenance.  For a piece of its quality to have nothing tying it to a previously known ancient art collection; no notations of its discovery or find spot, and nothing notable in the way of published scholarly examination of its style and iconography, rang alarm bells in Switzerland. 

In a recent video, with Al Jazeera news, Ali Aboutaam claimed that the ancient funerary object had been purchased by his father and had been in their family for 25 years. While under their control, he indicated that the sarcophagus had always been stored at the Geneva freeport aside from when it was shipped to the UK for conservation treatment.   Ali Aboutam added that in 2010 the object was sold to the Gandur Foundation as a donation to the Musée d’Art ed d’Histoire in Geneva and according to Phoenix Ancient Art's attorney Bastien Geiger, Sleiman Aboutaam purchased the object in the early 90s.

Phoenix Ancient Art had proposed the sarcophagus to billionaire Swiss tycoon and commodities trader, Jean-Claude Gandur in the spring of 2010 for an estimated $1 - 4 million saying that the firm was acting on behalf of a third party whom they interestingly refused to disclose.  Gandur, who made a fortune during the 1990s buying oil concessions in Africa, has long been a powerful collector of ancient art, as well as a long term patron of the Musée d’Art et d’histoire in Geneva. 

In consideration of the donation, Marc-André Haldimann, head of the archaeology department of the Musée d’Art ed d’Histoire of Geneva and the director of the museum, Jean-Yves Marin, went to the freeport and inspected the sarcophagus to carry out an appraisal for consideration.  The pair however remained highly skeptical of the lack of established information on the ancient sarcophagus, which implied possible illicit origins.  

How could such a prestigious object emerge on the ancient art market having never been talked or written about previously?   

Wouldn't the archaeologist who discovered such a masterpiece have mentioned this spectacular find in his or her field notes?  

Wouldn't a scholar of some repute have compared it in an academic article with the other known artworks by the same signatory group of sculptures or other sarcophagi depicting Hercules?

The only documentation Phoenix Ancient Art produced which attested to the fundamental question of this exceptional object's past, were independently established statements attesting that the ancient work of art was part of the Aboutaam collection from 2002 onward and a certificate from Art Loss Register attesting the object had been checked against ALR's known stolen art database registry.  Ultimately the sale to the Gandur Foundation was cancelled, in no small part because of suspicions that the object had been smuggled out of its source country. 

In March 2011, the Specialized Body for the International Transfer of Cultural Property at the Swiss Federal Office of Culture (FOC) issued a statement that they believed the sarcophagus had originated from the general area of the famous marble quarries of Dokimion in Phrygia, the present day Antalya region of Turkey. The Dokimeian white marble sarcophagus was likely sculpted sometime during the the second century, when the area was under Roman rule. 

Based on the FOC's examination, Swiss authorities alerted their counterparts in Ankara, and Turkey in turn, issued a demand for the restitution of the rare antiquarian work by a letter rogatory of July 2011. Turkey also sent a request for mutual assistance to the Geneva court and an inquiry was formally opened in Switzerland to look into alleged violations of the Cultural Property Transfer Act (LTBC).  This act requires art market professionals keep a register for 30 years, in which the "origin of the cultural property" is to be documented. 

In order for the sarcophagus to have been in good standing in Switzerland under the LTBC, the dealers would be obliged to prove that the acquired object was in an old collection outside the source country prior to 2005 or to demonstrate that the object was not stolen or exported illicitly after 2005.

In October 2013, the case made its way through Swiss court. The Geneva Chief Public Prosecution Office and the Chief Public Prosecutor of Antalya conducted a comprehensive joint study with the Swiss magistrate in charge of the case traveling to Antalya, Turkey where Turkish Public Prosecutor Osman Şanal provided access to witnesses.   

Testimonies were heard from Professor Haluk Abbasoğlu and Professor İnci Deleman who conducted excavations in the region where the sarcophagus was illegally excavated.   The Swiss prosecutor also met with an unnamed imprisoned smuggler serving time on a separate smuggling charge in Elmalı prison.  This smuggler allegedly confirmed that the artifact had been looted and smuggled out of Turkey. 

Based on the evidence gathered, on September 21, 2015 Swiss authorities ordered the repatriation of the sarcophagus. But international legal proceedings move at a snail’s pace and the return of this one object, approved by the Geneva Court of Justice on May 2, 2016, was slowed again, due to a challenge by the Swiss Federal Court. 




More on the dealers involved in this repatriation case.

Phoenix Ancient Art operates a gallery in New York city as well as in Geneva Switzerland.  Founded by Sleiman Aboutaam in 1968, the firm was incorporated in 1995.  The second-generation family business is now managed by Sleiman's sons, Hicham Aboutaam and Ali Aboutaam, who took over the firm's operation after Sleiman’s death in 1998.  The firm has been embroiled in a significant number of antiquities-related controversies. 

A sampling (not a complete listing) of other instances of concern involving this firm include:

A third-century CE South Arabian alabaster stele the brothers attempted to sell in May 2002 via Sotheby’s auction house in New York for approximately $20,000 to $30,000 in which they listed the provenance for the piece as having belonged to a private English collection. Sotheby's researchers conducting due diligence before the auction found published photographs of the stele indicating that this tablet, carved in low relief, with an image of the fertility goddess Dat-Hamin, had been stolen in July 1994 from the Aden Museum in Yemen's port city during the country's previous war.  This object was forfeited to the U.S. government in December 2003 and eventually returned to Yemen.  

Hicham Aboutaam was arrested in 2003 for smuggling a looted ceremonial drinking vessel from Iran into the US, claiming that it had come from Syria.  Hicham pled guilty to the charges in 2004, paid a fine, and the vessel was returned to the Iranian authorities.  Hicham Aboutaam stated that his conviction stemmed from a "lapse in judgment."

The Egyptian authorities have accused Ali Aboutaam of involvement with Tarek El-Suesy (al-Seweissi), who was arrested in 2003 under Egypt’s patrimony law for illegal export of antiquities. Ali Aboutaam was tried in absentia, pronounced guilty and was fined, and sentenced to 15 years in prison in the Egyptian court in April 2004.  To date, he has not served any of the Egyptian sentence. 

The Aboutaams voluntarily repatriated 251 Antiquities valued at $2.7 Million to the State of Italy in May 2009 tied to one of Italy's most notorious smuggling rings.

Advice on collecting ancient art

ARCA encourages its readers to remember that the only way to avoid looting is to pressure dealers and collectors to not participate directly or indirectly in looting through their sourcing and purchases.  Collectors of ancient art are only the most current stewards of objects with long and telling histories. The provenance, or ownership history of a piece of art is important and should detail strong proof that an object has come from a legitimately traded collection.  

Buying and trading in ancient works of art, without well documented collecting histories, simply for their beauty or for the purpose of rescuing them from countries in conflict, only encourages further looting and further laundering of smuggled illicit objects. 

ARCA strongly discourages collectors and museums from buying or accepting objects that cannot pass the 1970 test or which lack a legitimate export permit from the actual and correct country of the object's origin.

By: Lynda Albertson

August 21, 2015

Two Syrians Detained in Istanbul’s Esenyurt District for Smuggling Ottoman-era “Sikke” Coins

By Lynda Albertson

Antiquities trafficking from source countries to collector markets requires a global network of routes and facilitation by domestic and international criminal groups and, or middle men. Although the various trajectories are always evolving, there are certain well-established trafficking routes regularly used for the purpose of transporting illicit goods, be they drugs, precursor chemicals, illicit arms, humans or portable antiquities.

Some trafficking routes are chosen out of geographic necessity, while others are selected when smugglers associate an alternate route with a lower risk of discovery, higher profit margin or simply because logistics, such as fuel supplies, transport or available couriers, make one transport route or trafficker more appealing than another. 

Turkey has long been a viable trade corridor for heroin as well as other illegal merchandise.  As a stop along what is known as the Balkan Route the country's strategic geographical location has helped to develop it into a major staging area and transportation conduit used by drug traffickers smuggling heroin destined for European markets, with the largest percentage flowing into Germany and the Netherlands. 
April 27, 2015 Heroin Seizure 


But does Turkey serve as a trade route for illicit antiquities?

This week Turkish authorities announced that police had detained two Syrian antiquities smugglers also in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district and confiscated 500 historic "sikke" dating back to the Tanzimat period (1839–1876) of the Ottoman Empire.  Along with the coins police seized ammunition, a firearm, and a substantial amount of cash in three separate currencies:
August 2015 Coin Hoard Seizure

€119,000 (Euros)
₺134,500 (Turkish lira)
$4,250 (US Dollars)

Is the antiquities trade always tied to the illicit drug trade? 

Certainly not.  However one could conclude that underworld figures willing to ply their trade with one black market item (heroin) might be convinced to transport/fence other lucrative goods (coins) available on the illicit market if and when opportunity knocks and they are presented with objects for which there are likely to be buyers.  

Is the antiquities trade tied to one specific district? 

Again certainly not.  Nor should any parallel be drawn by any of our readers connecting these two isolated events in one distinct of Istanbul.

The lack of solid statistical reporting in the field of heritage-related crimes and the clandestine nature of illicit trafficking in general make drawing conclusions as to how often one type of illicit trafficking overlaps with another impossible to ascertain.  What is important however is that we actively recognize that fluid network structures, rather than more formal hierarchies, coupled with porous borders and geographical proximity to destabilized source countries located in the vicinity of established trafficking corridors where transnational criminal networks are already active could be leveraged as a means to traffic movable heritage.   It should also be understood that the average participant may not be a career criminal, but a regular citizen attempting to exploit an opportunity to supplement their income as a single link in a complex chain. 









April 28, 2015

Gaziantep, Land of Antiquities and a Whole Lot More

By Lynda Albertson

On Sunday, April 26th The Independent ran a news piece titled "Syria conflict: The illicit art trade that is a major source of income for today's terror groups is nothing new." The meaty article, by Freelance Contributor Isabel Hunter, describes the events that unfolded as she posed as an agent for an antiquities buyer during a meeting with Syrians who were purported to be middlemen selling antiquities on the outskirts of Gaziantep.

Gaziantep (Antep) is a bustling Turkish city with 1.8 million inhabitants.  Sometimes referred to as "Little Aleppo" or “Aleppo in Exile” the city has become home to many Syrians who once lived in Aleppo province but who have been forced to flee as a result of the ongoing civil war.

Now in its fourth year, Syria's multi-sided conflict has claimed more than 150,000 lives and displaced two-fifths of the country's population.  It is estimated now that 3 million Syrians have fled their homeland since the start of war and UNHCR has stated that 1.7 million Syrian refugees now live within Turkey's borders.  

30,000 of these refugees have relocated to five camps just outside Gaziantep.  A municipal official who was interviewed in January of this year estimated that the overall number of refugees in Gaziantep state alone is a staggering 400,000 people so its not surprising that “Hani” and his colleague are trying to eek out a meager living in any way they can, including trafficking.

Located just 60 kilometers from the Syrian border, Gaziantep has long been an established trade route between Syria's Aleppo province.  Historically Aleppo and Antep were both part of Ottoman province of Haleb, a longstanding trade corridor along the Silk Road.  Before war broke out, it took two hours to drive the 100 kilometers from Aleppo to Gaziantep, making it a frequent destination for Syrian travelers. Former resident's of Aleppo I spoke with this week said that to drive from Aleppo to Gaziantep now could take a full day, possibly even two depending on which roads were taken and which security checkpoints you needed to pass through or wanted to avoid. 

A bustling hub at the center of the Middle East’s biggest conflict, Gaziantep is a stopping off point for all manner of folk.  Insurgent fighters trying to get to Syria, refugees, foreign-aid workers, journalists, fixers and the ever opportunistic traffickers —all there in one way or another as the result of the Syrian conundrum.

Gaziantep Marijuana Bust December 2012
Traffickers in the past though have focused on commodities  easier to shift than antiquities.  In December 2012 Gaziantep Police Department of Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Branch seized 83 kilos of cannabis and arrested twelve people engaged in drug trafficking.  

In July 2014 Gaziantep Customs Enforcement teams confiscated 14,200 liters of diesel in one raid alone as smugglers began turning to the illegal fuel trade as the next hot commodity. In September 2014 Istanbul's Security Directorate Combating Smuggling and Organized Crime Branch arrested another eight traffickers for moving
Gaziantep Cigarette Trafficking 2012
9600 liters of fuel and 8500 of cartons of contraband cigarettes

Heroin, marijuana, ecstasy, fuel, mobile phones, pistachios, tea, and weapons — these are just a few of the fenced commodities trained Turkish law enforcement officers have seized in their fight against organized crime since the start of the Syrian conflict. I underscore the plethora of trafficked goods because I think its important.

Criminologists have long discussed transnational crime and the interface between legal and illegal actors broadening their activities into areas of antiquities trafficking and forgery.  But before I get into how the square holed, perforated Sumerian votive plaque in the Independent's article underscores this, I'd like to say that those in the cultural heritage protection field would be wise to discourage this type of investigative reporting when journalists come asking for leads.

The Syrian war is an exceptionally difficult story to cover due to the logistical barriers of the multi-sided conflict and the public's insatiable desire for instantaneous news.  More and more frequently journalists covering these conflicts are stringers; freelancers paid by the article who work without the safety net of the news outlets they report for.  These types of reporters don't have an editor standing in the wings saying, "walk away from it" when a story is too risky or when the line between being a legitimate journalist and an intelligence operative gets blurred.

In many cases stringers are the first with breaking news in conflicts either by risk or by happenstance.  Their goal, like that of any good reporter, is purely to bring home the story no one else has.  The difference though is that a freelance reporter might be paid £200 for a 1,000-word article and most likely doesn't even have insurance. 

Gaziantep Gun Seizure March 2015
When reporters contact ARCA asking if we can put them in touch with sketchy antiquities dealers, I tell them no.  Reporting from war zones and delving into the world of organized crime is a dicey proposition. Scoops may sell papers or create page clicks, but the journalists who win Pulitzer Prizes are rare.  Finding the dealer that is fencing Syria's and Iraq's  heritage for the sake of a story is not worth anyone's life.   A published exposée might rattle a trafficker, jeopardize the journalist, or interfere with ongoing criminal investigations, including those with heavier implications that just the world's cultural patrimony. 

I underscore this because I know there is a lot at stake as we try to draw clearer lines between terrorism, organized crime and heritage looting.   I know the topic is an important one and I know we want to know more.  But as ethical professionals we should be asking our respective countries to spend more money in law enforcement and in documenting the world's heritage better, not tacitly condoning investigative journalism in the hopes that a reporter's shocking revelation will illuminate a point we have already concluded.  Sometimes we should ask ourselves if we really need to find the smoking gun to solve this problem.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 61 journalists were confirmed killed doing their job in 2014. The vast majority of these dead journalists were working in, or covering issues in conflict areas. Some were killed intentionally, despite the fact that under the Geneva Convention, journalists are to be treated as civilians in times of conflict and that harming or killing them is a war crime.

If governments need proof that antiquities are tied to crime and terrorism, they should be asking law enforcement professionals directly what their educated opinion is and dedicating appropriate resources to address the problem, not sit on the fence because statistical analysts haven't been able to provide numerical data that translates easily into the financial numbers politicians prefer.

My fear when articles like the one in the Independent are published is that we use limited examples to make larger inferences about who is moving what and for whom instead of just examining the singular case itself and what data that case alone specifically tells us.   The first question I would ask myself is why these traders were eager to show their wares to an unknown foreigner?

In doing due diligence, Isabel Hunter shared the images she obtained with a number of US academics who confirmed to The Independent that they believed the Sumerian plaque to be genuine.   Not having the details of their assessments,  I asked Ms. Hunter if I could have a copy of her larger format images as the online version used in the article had been optimized for internet viewing and made the inscription almost impossible to see.

Sumerian Relief Plaque with a Banquet Scene, Metropolitan Museum of Art
I passed the images Ms. Hunter shared with me among several researchers who helpfully pointed out that there are several so-called "banquet" votive plaques in existence and that they have been found in both northern and southern Mesopotamia, some of them with square-perforated holes, including a banquet scene in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, two plaques at the Iraqi National Museum, here and here, as well as another one of Ur-Nanshe, king of Lagash, represented as the bird-god Anzu (or Im-dugud), a lion-headed eagle located at the Louvre.

A Votive relief of Ur-Nanshe, representing bird-god Anzu, the Louvre,   Paris
But what was off on the Independant's plaque featuring Anzu was its inscription.  I spoke with Professor Eleanor Robson of University College London whose research focuses on the social and political contexts of knowledge production in the cuneiform culture of ancient Iraq.  Without publishing the details of our conversation, so as not to be of benefit of future antiquities forgers,  Dr. Robson pointed out irregularities within the inscription, which, in her academic opinion, meant the piece was not authentic, or at a minimum had been altered.  She also added that while it's theoretically possible that the text could have been added a few centuries after the artefact was made she doubted it.*

Not to discount the possibility of a later-day alteration, I forwarded Dr. Robson's thoughts back to the journalist who put me in touch with Michael Danti, a co-director of The Syrian Heritage Initiative (SHI), supported by the US Department of State and the American School of Oriental Research.  Danti had helped Ms. Hunter identify experts to determine if the piece she was shown was authentic.  Danti advised me that he had shared the Gaziantep images with Dr. Richard Zettler, Dr. Jean Evans, Dr. Robert Biggs, and Dr. John Russell who all were of the opinion that the plaque was authentic and that he would share Dr. Robson's findings with the others for clarification.  It is my hope that by sharing thoughts on authentication with one another we can better understand the motivations of this particular seller as well as to determine if this is indeed an authentic looted Iraq plaque or a passing forgery.

To that end, it is not unusual forgeries to be mixed in, knowingly and unknowingly with authentic antiquities as academics and professional dealer associations can testify. They even have a term for intentional mixing, a practice known in the trade as "seeding".  It is also not unusual for forgeries and counterfeits of Assyro-Babylonian antiquities to deceive the eyes of specialists as some may specialize in iconography while others specialize in ancient texts. 

As soon as the explorations at Nimrod and Hatra attracted the public’s attention, forgeries began and its commonplace to find small objects, such as forged inscriptions, in the art market and markets throughout the middle east, especially where there is a tourist trade.  Most individuals, cannot read ancient languages and are simply looking to buy something which is aesthetically pleasing.  Plaques and tablets with wedge-shaped cuneiform script are also easier for forgers to execute with some precision, copying what they chisel character by character from photographs or books.

Since the early ’90s there’s been a notable supply of both real and forged cuneiform artifacts in the international antiquities art markets, some pilfered from archaeological sites, others lifted straight out of regional Iraqi museums, and still others gently handcrafted for the unsuspecting buyer.

In favor of the object's possible authenticity is the fact that the Turkish cities of Antakya, Gaziantep, Mardin, and Urfa have each been previously identified as cities where antiquities looted from Syria’s and Iraq can be found, including objects taken from Apamea and Dura-Europos, sites which also sustained looting while under governmental control, underscoring that opportunistic looting is not just restricted to terrorist organizations. Given that other items are fairly easy to fence in this zone, its probably reasonable to assume that antiquities are just another type of commodity to be traded.

But aside from the lettering incised in the tablet I also wonder whether or not the de-dolomitization (the way the surface of the stone has aged) is artificial.  If academics cannot even agree on if something is authentic vs. faked imagine how difficult this job would be for border authorities in stemming the flow of undocumented antiquities.  Looted antiquities pass through busy ports hidden among legitimate merchandise, or through porous borders in refugee bundles or intentionally packaged and mislabeled as reproductions only to revert back to being authentic when sold on the art market.   

With or without ISIS, fakes and illicit antiquities will continue to enter the art market wherever there is a willing buyer. Finding one dealer who will show a journalist his hidden treasure won't be a deterrent.  Artwork from the Early Dynastic Period (mid third-millennium BC), a time when stone was the common medium, gives both looters and opportunistic forgers a lot of material to work with. 

* Researchers interested in reviewing these assessments can write to us privately to share opinions.


References Used in This Article

"10 Foreigners, including Tunisian Who 'lied to Police,' Detained near Turkey's Syria Border." Hurriyet Daily News, [Istanbul] 08 Apr. 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. 

"Akaryakıt Kaçakçılığıyla Mücadele Hız Kesmeden Devam Ediyor" T.C. Gümrük Ve Ticaret Bakanlığı, 07 July 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015. 
 
“Cuneiform Forgeries in the Museu Bíblic of Montserrat (Barcelona)”, en G. del Olmo, L. Feliu, A. Millet (eds.), Shapal tibnim mû illaku. Studies Presented to J. Sanmartín on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday (Aula Orientalis Supplementa 22), Sabadell 2006, pp. 289-301 [co-author: I. Márquez Rowe]

"Gaziantep'te Kaçakçılık Olayları." Haberciniz. Haberciniz, 29 Sept. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.   

Hooker, James T., ed. Reading the past: Ancient writing from cuneiform to the alphabet. Univ of California Press, 1990.

Hunter, Isabel. "Syria Conflict: The Illicit Art Trade That Is a Major Source of Income for Today's Terror Groups Is Nothing New." The Independent [London] 26 Apr. 2015, Sunday ed.: n. pag. The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.

"Iraq National Museum - Sumerian Votive Plaque - 1." Iraq National Museum - Sumerian Votive Plaque. Iraqi National Museum, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
"Iraq National Museum - Sumerian Votive Plaque - 2." Iraq National Museum - Sumerian Votive Plaque. Iraqi National Museum, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

"Journalists Killed in 2014." Committee to Protect Journalists. John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015. 

Muscarella, Oscar White. "Gudea or not Gudea in New York and Detroit: Ancient or modern?." Source: Notes in the History of Art (2005): 6-18.
Muscarella, Oscar White. The lie became great: the forgery of ancient Near Eastern cultures. Vol. 1. BRILL, 2000.

"National Union for Journalists - Rate for the Job: Words, per 1000 / News." - Updated 4/13/2015. National Union for Journalists - London, 13 Apr. 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.  

Ozerdem, Alpaslan. "Turkey Urgently Needs to Integrate Its Syrian Refugees." The Conversation. N.p., 13 Jan. 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.  

"Professor Eleanor Robson." Academic Staff. University College London, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.  

"Relief Plaque with a Banquet Scene | Sumerian | Early Dynastic IIIa." Relief Plaque with a Banquet Scene. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

Republic Of Turkey Prime Ministry Disaster And Emergency Management Presidency. "Syrian Refugees in Turkey, 2013." Syrian Refugees in Turkey, 2013 (n.d.): n. pag. AFAD TURKEY. Republic of Turkey Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, 2013. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

Sollberger, Edmond. "The Cuneiform Collection in Geneva." Journal of Cuneiform Studies (1951): 18-20.

"Syrian Heritage Initiative." ASOR Syrian Heritage Initiative. The American Schools of Oriental Research, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.  
Taha, Munir Y. "The Authenticity of a Sumerian Statue." Iraq 35.02 (1973): 151-153.

"Torbacılara Şafak Baskını." Torbacılara Şafak Baskını. Müdürlüğümüz Kaçakçılık Ve Organize Suçlarla Mücadele Şube Müdürlüğü, 06 Dec. 2012. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.   

"UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response." UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response. Ed. UNHCR. UNHCR, Government of Turkey, 14 Apr. 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.

"UN Jobs." Grant Manager - WV Response to Syria Refugee Crisis, Gaziantep, Turkey.http://unjobs.org/vacancies/1385418031847 United Nations, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015. 

 Walker, Christopher BF. Cuneiform. Vol. 3. Univ of California Press, 1987.
 



November 12, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - ,, No comments

Ankara, Turkey: Anonymous caller breaks open case in art theft investigation at the State Art and Sculpture Museum

By Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

In August 2012 Hurriyet Daily News highlighted a report produced by Turkey's Culture and Tourism Ministry that identified hundreds of works of art as missing from the State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara. Some of the works stolen were from highly valued Turkish artists such as Şevket Dağ, Şefik Bursalu, Zühtü Müridoğlu, and Hikmet Ona.  Experts and common citizens alike complained that the museum, like many in many countries, did not have an adequate inventory system in place.  This vulnerability, it was partially reasoned, worked in the thieves favor when they switched the original paintings with inferior fake ones. 
Image Rights: Ankara Scribbler

At the time the thefts were announced Hurriyet stated "A recent report by the ministry, which was later shelved away from public view to avoid a possible backlash, claims that 46 pieces from the museum's catalog were stolen and replaced with fake replicas........The authenticity of 30 more art works is also "highly suspicious," according to the report."

When the thefts were discovered the Culture Ministry was forced to examine 5,000 works of art in the collection.  Their findings indicated that a total of 302 objects were stolen, elaborating that 256 of the paintings/objects were listed as completely missing and 46 as having been replaced with forged replica, including 13 charcoal sketches by Hacı Ali Rıza.

Turkish news sites today report that arrests have been made as a result of an anonymous caller who spoke directly with the Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay, breaking open the Ankara art theft investigation and leading to the arrest of three of 18 tentative suspects involved in the case.

Hurriyet Daily News reported that "those arrested are the alleged leader of the gang Ahmet Sarı, the security official of the museum Veli Topal, and antique dealer Mete Aktuna"

The news site went on to add that the thefts and forgery involve an organized network of criminals who lifted works of art from the museum primarily between 2005 and 2009 selling them through middlemen and fine art dealers, sometimes even in auction houses to unsuspecting buyers.

Hurriyet reported that “The female deputy director of the museum proposed Sarı to sell the original works in the museum’s depot. One included Hikmet Onat’s oil painting. Sarı sold it to an antique dealer in Nişantaşı for $210,000 and the antique dealer sold it to a famous businessman for $350,000. The painting is still in his collection. Another painting by Vecihi Bereketoğlu was also sold to an auctioneer and the auctioneer sold it to the son of a famous businessman,” According to the anonymous informant the crime syndicate stole the paintings and works of art from the museum between 2005 and 2009.

Dunya Bulteni, a Turkish language news site reports that the during the enterprise two oil paintings were sold for 10 thousand (currency not indicated) as well as numerous other museums objects, including one for 210 thousand dollars."
 
The fact that this group of criminals were able to operate so freely and for so long within Turkish borders and within the legitimate art market without detection reflects the country's heritage vulnerability as a trafficking conduit not just for its own works of art but also for objects originating from nearby nations such as Syria and Iraq where trafficking and looting have been reported. 

The Republic of Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself has stated  

"Terrorism in contemporary terms needs a strong financial support, high tech weapons and an expensive organization. There is no doubt that today’s terrorists are better financed and better utilize the financial institutions than before. There is a close connection between terrorism and organized crime. Illicit sources such as narcotics and human trafficking, arms smuggling, money laundering or extortion are major revenue sources for terrorist groups. However, it is a well known fact that terrorist organizations resort beside illegal means to legal means to finance their criminal activities. Now, it has become clear that legal businesses and charitable organizations can also be utilized by terrorists for funding their activities."



August 6, 2014

Wednesday, August 06, 2014 - ,,, No comments

Anadolu Agency: "FBI returns smuggled Lydian artifacts to Turkey"

Kasım İleri reported August 5 for the Anadolu Agency that U.S. investigators returned 10 illegally traded artifacts from the Lydian Iron Age civilization (first and third centuries A.D.) back to Turkey:
... The return to the Turkish Embassy of the items - estimated to have originated in the Western Turkish province of Manisa and to date back to the first and third centuries A.D. - came during a joint presentation between officials from the FBI and Turkish mission in Washington on Tuesday. The artefacts included grave stones and sacrifice stelas - stone or wooden slabs on which Lydians would inscribe the sacrifices of animals or possessions that deceased people had made during their lives - used in funeral or commemorative services. The items were smuggled into the U.S. in 2006 and spotted by the Turkish Culture Ministry as they were being illegally traded, and were later seized in an operation involving Turkish security officials, the FBI and Washington D.C. police officers in May.... 

January 3, 2014

Postcard from Turkey: Archaeological museums in Ankara and Istanbul

by Aaron Haines

Ankara, the capital of Turkey, is slated to host a massive archaeology museum that the Turkish government hopes to complete by 2023, the centennial of the founding of the Republic of Turkey. The current archaeology museum is a sizeable building and when I visited in August, only two of the galleries were open due to extensive renovations that were taking place in the museum’s other galleries. The interior of the main gallery was dark with dramatic lighting illuminating the artifacts on display. There was a large amount of Hittite artifacts with detailed text panels in Turkish and English explaining the history and significance of the Hittite civilization and their archaeological remains.

The crowning piece of the main gallery was the “Troy Gold”, a collection of jewelry recently sent to Turkey on indefinite loan by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The museum in Ankara had hung a large banner at the entrance proudly advertising the return of the artifacts. The collection of jewelry was on display at the back of the gallery where a matching banner had been hung. The jewelry was well displayed and the necklace and earrings had been placed on a stylized head to give the viewer an idea of how they would have looked when worn. The only other part of the museum that was open was a small gallery displaying various Roman artifacts. The side yard was littered with massive half buried amphoras as well as various capitals and partial columns. In the spacious courtyard were copies of various statues from the Hittites, Romans, and other civilizations.

The Istanbul Archaeological Museum is an older building that was also undergoing extensive renovations when I visited it in August. The permanent collection in the main building was open as well as the galleries containing the Greek and Roman sarcophagi. It was clear that the main building was intended as a space for a permanent collection as many of the artifacts were built into the wall or had special pavement around them. The amount of cameras seemed adequate, but there were very few guards in relation to the amount of patrons in the museum. However, the museum was experiencing an unusually high amount of attendance that day since the Topkapi Palace was closed. The display cases appeared to only have simple locks and no seals. The lighting was sufficient, but only a few of the display cases had individual lights.

Due to the renovations, patrons had to use the restrooms in the administration building. This required them to walk down a narrow hallway and turn a couple of corners before reaching the restroom. This would have be insignificant had it not been for the archaeological artifacts haphazardly lining the walls and the open storage room stacked with crates containing other artifacts. There were no cameras in this area of the building, but the security guards’ break room was in the same hallway. The guards frequently came in and out of the hall providing the artifacts with a reasonable amount of security.

The gallery containing the Greek and Roman sarcophagi and architectural remains were similar to the gallery in the Ankara museum with its completely dark rooms and the dramatic lighting of the artifacts. All the artifacts were well displayed and there were many more guards in this area of the museum, especially in those rooms containing the large sarcophagi. The small gallery containing the Classical statuary was particularly well displayed with lots of camera surveillance. At the end of this small gallery was a large room occupied by only the Orpheus Mosaic returned by the Dallas Museum of Art. Next to it, the text panels describe the history and significance of the piece as well as its recent repatriation from the Dallas Museum of Art.

Aaron Haines is a senior majoring in art history at Brigham Young University and traveled to Turkey this summer using grant moneys from the BYU Office of Research and Creative Activities to observe the security of four archaeology museums. He visited the archaeology museums in Uşak, Boğazkale, Ankara, and Istanbul each of which houses artifacts that have been recently repatriated by Turkey from other countries. Aaron has a special interest in cultural property law and preservation as it applies to Italy and Turkey and speaks Italian and some Turkish. He recently returned from an internship at the American Embassy in Rome and is currently interning with the U.S. State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center.

December 31, 2013

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - ,, No comments

Postcard from Turkey: The Archaeological Museum in Boğazkale

by Aaron Haines

After my visit in Uşak, I took a four hour bus ride to Ankara where I spent the night and then left early the next morning for Boğazkale. After sitting on a hot bus for three hours watching daytime Turkish TV (the bus driver was a fan of soap operas), I arrived in Sungurlu, the closest major town to Boğazkale. Upon stepping off the bus, I was immediately befriended by a nice Turkish taxi driver who offered to take me to Boğazkale for an exorbitant fare. I politely declined and started the one mile trek towards the town center of Sungurlu in hopes that I could find a minibus headed for Boğazkale. I eventually located the minibus station and sat down to wait. In Turkey, the minibus drivers don’t drive anywhere until their vehicle is full and unfortunately for me, it was noon and no one was interested in going to Boğazkale except for me. After waiting for a half hour, I decided that the 15 seater minivan was never going to fill up and decided to take a taxi.
Yard of Boğazkale museum (AH)

I finally arrived in the small town of Boğazkale and had the taxi drop me off outside the archaeology museum. It had a sizeable lawn and pavement area with a tall wrought iron fence surrounding the lot. Various archaeological artifacts were in the yard, but unlike the Uşak museum, these pieces were carefully displayed and labeled. A few of the larger pieces were even placed under wooden shelters to protect them from the elements.

Disputed sphinx (AH)
As I stepped into the museum, the first thing that caught my eye was the large pair of sphinxes flanking the doorway to the central gallery. The left sphinx had been the center of a heated debate between Turkey and Germany ever since the beginning of the 20th century when the statues had been discovered and sent to Berlin for repairs. Germany only sent back one of the sphinxes and the other remained in Berlin where it was built into the wall of the Pergamon Museum. Germany did not return the sphinx until 2011 after Turkey threatened to revoke Germany’s dig permit at Hattusha. The museum consisted of a couple of small rooms preceding a much larger central gallery. There were many text panels explaining the works displayed as well as information about the Hittites and other civilizations that inhabited the surrounding region. All of the works were well lit and beautifully displayed.

Main gallery (AH)
After passing between the sphinxes, I entered the main gallery which consisted of a ground floor and a second story balcony area. More archeological artifacts were displayed as well as replicas and explanations of the ancient city of Hattusha. The most arresting works on the ground floor were two tall ceremonial bull vases. There were fewer cameras than at Uşak, but the display cases appeared to be much more modern and secure than those at Uşak. Also, the visibility in the main gallery was excellent since it was just one main room and the guard had complete visibility of both the ground floor and the balcony level.

The bench outside the museum (AH)
After visiting the galleries, I sat on a bench outside the museum and chatted with the security guard. He spoke almost no English so we talked in Turkish. He told me that a guard was present at the museum 24/7 and that the cameras monitored both the interior of the museum as well as the surrounding yard. Each night, the fence gate as well as the main door’s outer iron grate are locked. There were also powerful motion detection lights on the exterior of the building that would turn on if a person approached the building at night.


Hattusha site (AH)
I left the museum and walked about twenty minutes to the Hattusha archaeological site where the ancient capital of the Hittites once stood. Near the entrance is a reconstruction of the city walls to give visitors an idea of how massive the walls and towers of the city were. I then spent the next three hours hiking around the ancient ruins by following the wide road that snakes its way throughout the ruined city. Except for the occasional Turkish family or group of backpackers, I had the place to myself. At the very top I found the gate where the two sphinxes had been originally discovered where a replica now stands. From the gate there was a spectacular view of the ruins and surrounding landscape.

Original site of sphinxes with replica
As the sun began to set, I made my way back into the town center of Boğazkale. On my way down the country road, I ran into the museum security guard taking an evening stroll with his family. He introduced me to his wife and young daughter and asked how I liked Hattusha. I told him that I was on my way back to Sungurlu and he warned me that it might be too late to take a taxi. I thanked him and we parted ways. As I continued walking, I thought about my chances of finding a taxi and decided that the odds were slim. So I stuck out my thumb and hitchhiked back to Sungurlu with a nice Turkish gentleman driving home from work. From there, I caught one of the last buses going back to Ankara where I wearily walked back to my hostel at midnight.

All photos taken by Aaron Haines.

Aaron Haines is a senior majoring in art history at Brigham Young University and traveled to Turkey this summer using grant moneys from the BYU Office of Research and Creative Activities to observe the security of four archaeology museums. He visited the archaeology museums in Uşak, Boğazkale, Ankara, and Istanbul each of which houses artifacts that have been recently repatriated by Turkey from other countries. Aaron has a special interest in cultural property law and preservation as it applies to Italy and Turkey and speaks Italian and some Turkish. He recently returned from an internship at the American Embassy in Rome and is currently interning with the U.S. State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center.

December 30, 2013

Postcard from Turkey: The Archaeological Museum at Uşak, The Lydian Hoard and Two Hippocampuses

by Aaron Haines

I rubbed my sleep-deprived eyes and stared across the abandoned parking lot at the rusty minivan that was supposedly my “shuttle” into town. It was six in the morning and the sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon of Uşak, a small city in the center of western Turkey. Most bus companies don’t travel to Uşak and the few that do only offer one or two bus rides from Istanbul each day. I had left Istanbul the previous night at eight and spent the next ten hours on a bus in order to see Uşak’s most famous possession: the Lydian Hoard. I walked up to the minivan, squeezed onto the front bench, and told the driver I needed to go the archaeology museum. The rest of the passengers stared me as if wondering what a young American backpacker was doing so far from any of Turkey’s usual tourist destinations. We soon reached the city center and the driver told me in Turkish that the museum was just down the street.

Photo by A. Haines
The museum did not open for another couple of hours so I took my time observing the building’s exterior. It was a small building situated on an awkward triangular corner plot of land where two streets merged. It was surrounded by a low wrought iron fence that was about three to four feet in height. The building’s small yard was littered with archaeological artifacts from various civilizations and time periods; Byzantine, Hittite, Roman, and others. The placement of these objects was haphazard, but it was clear every square inch of the yard could be surveyed by the small army of security cameras that pointed in every direction. Also, none of the objects were small enough to be lifted by hand and would have required either machinery or several people to move them. There was an abundance of exterior lighting indicating that the museum and archaeological artifacts could be sufficiently monitored at night. The museum was an older building, but fulfilled its intended purpose. The windows were single paned and old, but all well protected by the iron bars covering them. Despite the early hour, I noticed a man standing inside the museum watching me, indicating that a security guard was present at the museum both day and night.

At eight when the museum opened, I stepped inside and was greeted by the security guard. I pulled out my wallet to purchase a ticket, but the guard was already leaving his desk and leading me into the museum’s only gallery. I expected him to then return to his desk while I toured the small collection, but instead he simply followed me around. I got the feeling that not many people came into the museum. The lighting and presentation of the museum’s collection were excellent and there were many text panels explaining the significance of the objects as well as where they had been found in the surrounding countryside.

Photo of Lydian Hoard by A. Haines
I was eager to see the Lydian Hoard and quickly found it in a room in the very back of the gallery. The pieces of the collection were displayed on simple but elegant cloth with good lighting. The hippocampus still occupied its own display case, but the text panel gave no indication that the original had been stolen or that the current piece on display was a copy of the original. I noticed that the previous simple lock had been replaced by a lock, seal, and slip of paper. On this slip of paper were the signatures of four different archaeologists indicating that each had verified that the work was the legitimate original.

Photo of documented lock by A. Haines
The museum guard was still shadowing me so I decided to strike up a conversation with him. He did not speak much English so we conversed in Turkish. He explained to me that a guard was at the museum twenty four hours a day and that there was video surveillance of the entire building and the surrounding yard of antiquities. When I asked him how many patrons visited the museum, he told me that during the summer, they averaged about one hundred every day. This surprised since Uşak is a smaller city and quite far from any major tourist attractions. I asked again about the museum attendance and he repeated that they indeed averaged around one hundred patrons a day during the summer time. He explained that during the winter, attendance drops due to the decrease in tourism. He went on to explain that the city was currently constructing a new museum that is supposed to be completed next year. The new three story building will have much more storage and administration space as well as an upgraded security system.


Copy of  hippocampus in Uşak (A. Haines) 
We returned to the subject of the Lydian Hoard and after I asked a couple of questions about the hippocampus, he stopped and stared at me for a couple of seconds. He then asked if I wanted to know something and leaned in to quietly tell me that the original work had been stolen. I feigned surprise and he motioned for me to walk back over to the display case. He then told me the story about the hippocampus and confided in me that the brooch in the case was actually a fake. Thanks to Sharon Waxman’s 2008 book Loot: The Battle Over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World (Times Books), I already knew this, but I doubted that most patrons to the museum did. There was no explanation of it in the text panels or in any of the other materials on display. Most patrons assumed that they were viewing the original.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived in Ankara, the capitol of Turkey, just a couple of days later and saw the same hippocampus on display in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. My immediate thought was that I had now seen two copies of the same stolen work.

Recovered hippocampus temporarily
housed in Ankara (Photo by A. Haines)
I approached two security guards chatting nearby and explained to them that I had just seen this same work in Uşak. They replied that I had seen a copy in Uşak and that the object in Ankara was the original brooch. I asked them how this could be since the work had been stolen and they explained that it had been recently recovered. Supposedly it was only on temporary display in Ankara and will be moved to Uşak next year when the new Uşak museum is complete.

Aaron Haines is a senior majoring in art history at Brigham Young University and traveled to Turkey this summer using grant moneys from the BYU Office of Research and Creative Activities to observe the security of four archaeology museums. He visited the archaeology museums in Uşak, Boğazkale, Ankara, and Istanbul each of which houses artifacts that have been recently repatriated by Turkey from other countries. Aaron has a special interest in cultural property law and preservation as it applies to Italy and Turkey and speaks Italian and some Turkish. He recently returned from an internship at the American Embassy in Rome and is currently interning with the U.S. State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center.

Stolen and Recovered Antiquity: The Hippocampus brooch of the Lydian Hoard ("Karun Treasure") recovered in 2012 in Germany

Constanze Letsche in Istanbul reported for The Guardian in "King Croesus' golden brooch to be returned to Turkey" that German government officials have agreed to return the Hippocampus brooch of the Lydian Hoard ("Karun Treasure"), allegedly sold by the director of the museum in Uşak and replaced with a copy sometime between 1993 and 2006.
Although details of the brooch's latest recovery are unclear, Turkish officials are delighted. "I am very happy to hear that the piece will finally return home," said a culture and tourism official, Serif Aritürk, who is responsible for the museum in Usak. "Since I was in office in 2005 and 2006 I felt personally responsible for the theft; our directorate came under a lot of pressure." He added that he had never doubted the brooch would reappear. "No collector would have dared to acquire such a well-known artefact, it was clear that the thieves would not find a buyer easily."
The Hippocampus brooch was found in Germany.

Here The History Blog provides backstory on the recovery and theft of this object.

August 11, 2013

Enez: Bulgaria - Turkey IPA Cross-Border Program Highlights Multicultural History of Castle Ruins in Northern Aegean Beach Town

Enez Castle (Acropolis) - Restored by Turkish Ministery of
Culture and the Department of Cultural Assets & Museums 
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

ENEZ, Turkey – The tiny town of Enez, with its long sandy beaches and view of the Greek mainland, has a big summer population and an even grander history hidden in the ancient ruins of its castle. Recently the Bulgaria – Turkey IPA Cross-Border Program has replaced the old Turkish signs with bilingual placards telling of the site’s history as the ancient city of “Ainos” where the river Meriç (“Hebros”) meets the sea:

Herodotus mentioned that Ainos was first founded during the 7th century B.C. by Aeois, as a colony of those Aeols, who settled North of Izmir. On the other hand, we learn from other ancient written sources, that before this period, in Ainos there were cities or villages named Poltyobria and Apsinthos, founded by Thracian tribes.

Numerous people and rulers came and left Ainos before turning it over to Ottoman rule: the Persian Kings Darius and Xerces from 513-480 BC; Macedonians in the 4th century; Romans beginning in the 2nd century; and during the final era of the Byzantine Empire, the Genoans under the sovereignty of the Gattelusi and Doria families. After the death in 1455 of the Ainos ruler Palmede (of the Dorian family), an ‘internal struggled started for the rule of the city’ and ‘when the administration stopped paying the yearly tribute to the Ottoman Empire’, the citizens ‘handed the keys to the city’ to Mehmet the Conquerer when his Navy besieged the city (Bulgaria-Turkey IPA Cross-Border Program).

This gentleman talks about Enez ruins.
An older gentleman walking the un-excavated area within the castle walls said that he came to Enez in 1948 from Bulgaria and served as a guard here. The site is open and free to the public.  The population of the town increased after the 1950 when the Balkan countries and Turkey exchanged minorities. Recently a portion of the church has been restored with columns that had lain on the ground. When the wine cellars were excavated, multiple layers of the city were discovered and excavation work ceased. Over the years, he said, the bigger pieces of cultural objects were moved to the Archaeology Museum in Edirne.

According to the signage, in the trenches within the castle (acropolis), on top of the main rock, underneath a soil layer of 7.50 m, terracotta remains that date back to the 4th and 3rd millennia BC reveal that the settlement here dates back to the chalcolithic period. On top of this layer, which reveals the earliest settlement in Enez, finds that date back to the later Greek settlement period have been unearthed.... Ainos produced grain, salt and dried fish as well as oil and wine. 

Restored decorations inside collapsed church/mosque

The remains of the building known as the Fatih Mosque used to be the local Haghia Sophia Church, one of the most important domed basilicas of the Byzantine era (dating back to the 6th, 9th or 10th centuries). It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1965 and abandoned a year later.  Restoration work has been ongoing since the Ottoman years.






Ruins of an 11th century chapel
Christian symbol in basilica ruins