Showing posts with label Yemen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yemen. Show all posts

December 3, 2016

Geneva authorities report the confiscation of 9 artifacts from Palmyra, Syria, Yemen and Libya

Swiss authorities have confiscated nine archaeological objects originating from Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Through document records obtained by Swiss tribunal it has been determined that the objects were shipped to Switzerland between 2009 and 2010 and were stored at the Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève in their 6-story La Praille facility, located in a sprawling grey industrial building on the corner of a busy junction in southwest Geneva.

Back in September ARCA posted its own concerns about Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève SA attempt to reduce their risks surrounding the trade in stolen antiquities, both in terms of money-laundering and as a potential support for arms traffickers or terrorist groups. At that time, the free port was set to make changes that may or may not have been prompted to address this seizure, but still, in our opinion fall short of the thoroughly addressing the problem of storing looted artworks.

Originally set to be implemented this past summer, the new internal policy was implimented on September 19, 2016 and requires that anyone wanting to store ancient artifacts at the sprawling facility will have to undergo checks by an independent firm KPMG.  This group is tasked with investigating the validity of requests and the precise origins of any antiquities before the object is approved for transport to the complex for subsequent storage.  It should be noted that KPMG is a powerhouse accounting audit firm and in no way has had prior experience with this type of art-related transport auditing.

Back in October French finance minister Michel Sapin's, speaking on terrorism funding criticized security at Switzerland's free ports saying "there is a weak link, which is the existence of free ports."    And while it should be clearly noted that the recently publicized seizures in the tax-free zone predate both the Syrian and the Yemen conflict, ARCA agrees that controls by art provenance experts and not accounting experts would be a better means of addressing the continued problems seen at not just Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève but freeports as holding facilities for art world wide. 

The antiquities were discovered during an target-based Federal Customs Administration audit of the free port in April 2013 in a space rented by a private individual.  Presently that individual has not been publically identified.

In January 2015 Swiss authorities, through the Federal Office of Culture (FOC) confirmed the authenticity of the ancient objects, and have stated that some of the seized objects were shipped to the facility from Qatar (Items 1-6) and the United Arab Emirates (Item 7).  Swiss authorities have also stated that evidence gathered during the investigation has led the prosecutor to conclude that the goods seized were from looting and as a result, confiscation was ordered.  In addition a criminal case has been opened by the Tribune de Genève in March 2016 to be followed by Prosecutor Gregory Orci.

North-West Façade
Musée d'Art et d'Histoire
While the objects await permanent release to their countries of origin Swiss prosecutors have transferred the objects for safekeeping from Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève to the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire located at Rue Charles-Galland 2, 1206 Genève where they will be placed on public display.  

The objects have been identified by the Swiss authorities as follows with the following designations and in the order as they appear in official records.

Item 1 - A head of Aphrodite, origin Hellenic North Africa, Libya

Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 2 - A priest wearing his miter head, origin Palmyra, Syria

Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 3 - A circular table with decoration of ovals and head of ibex, origin southern Arabian Peninsula, Yemen

Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 4 - A praying [sic] origin southern Arabian Peninsula, Yemen


Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 5 - anthropomorphic stele, origin southern Arabian Peninsula, Yemen


Item 6 - anthropomorphic stele, origin southern Arabian Peninsula, Yemen
Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 7 - A quâtabanite registration stele, origin southern Arabian Peninsula, Yemen


Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor 
Item 8 - Funerary bas-relief from Palmyra, Syria

Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 9 - Funerary bas-relief from Palmyra, Syria
Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor

No longer simply Italian and Greek objects raising concern at the free ports, the Geneva port authority also recently relinquished a Nile Delta stele to Egyptian authorities following a two-year investigation after an inventory control by Swiss Federal Customs at the Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève SA facility at the Geneva airport.   The stele was identified as suspicious using the ICOM red list for Egypt and as a result was held pending authentication and then reported to Swiss prosecution for its irregularities. Criminal proceedings were conducted by the Attorney Claudio Mascotto and the object was returned in November of this year.

By: Lynda Albertson 

January 22, 2016

Damages to the of Bar'an Temple (Moon Temple) , Ma'rib, Yemen, عرش بلقيس


UPDATE: After posting a damage notification on Friday regarding the Bar'an Temple, also known as the Moon Temple in Ma'rib, Yemen, عرش بلقيس ARCA and Archaeology in Yemen received word late yesterday evening via text message that the images portrayed via multiple news outlets across Yemen and elsewhere in social media were not of the Bar'an Temple.  With little more to go on besides, "the images are wrong" I and the administrator of Archaeology in Yemen set about reconfirming the details, as even well-meaning heritage professionals, who do our best to double and triple fact check before reporting, make mistakes. 

Pouring through BBC and Youtube videos and hundreds of images and PDFs via the Sana'a Branch of the Orient Department of the German Archaeological Institute we now know the commenter was correct.  Most importantly, we now know what site was depicted in the January 14, 2016 reports and have more details that we had at the time of the original reporting.   For correction purposes, we will be leaving this re-identification notice up on both this and the original incorrect post pages so as to prevent any further misidentification.

The site damaged which was incorrectly identified as the Bar'an Temple (Moon Temple), Ma'rib, Yemen, عرش بلقيس  is actually the Almaqah Temple in Ṣirwāḥ, Yemen.

Please consider the original posting below as incorrect.  Corrected information can be found in this revision.  




From the capital of Sana'a to Ma'rib, Aden, Dhale, Hajjah, Hodayda, Sa'ada, Shabwa, and Ta'iz: Mohannad al-Sayani, the Director of Yemen's General Organization of Antiquities and Museums has stated that at least 23 sites and monuments have been severely damaged or destroyed since beginning of the conflict in Yemen. 

ARCAArchaeology in Yemen and Archaeology in Syria Network are trying to document all of them.

Bar'an Temple, Ma'rib Governorate, Yemen



Information on social media first reported that Yemen's Bar'an Temple, located next to Ma‘bid ash Shams in Ma'rib Governorate was damaged as a result of the ongoing conflict on or around January 14, 2016.

Yemen journalists and eye witnesses state that Saudi forces damaged parts of the temple's main pillars as well as epigraphic remains that contain writing in the Old Line Sabaean as the result of shelling in Sirwah area of Marib province.

Research on this location produced a lengthy group of names. Known as the Bar'an Temple, the Almaqah Temple, The Moon Temple, the Al-Amaid, and also as Arsh Bilquis, (the Arabic name for the Queen of Sheba) and the Throne of Bilquis the site is located about 85 miles east of the capital, Sana`a and two miles southeast of Ma'rib  at 15.4032200 (latitude in decimal degrees), 45.3430900 (longitude in decimal degrees).

The temple is believed to have been built by Mukarrib Yada`'il Dharih in between the 7th and 5th century BCE and was dedicated to the worship of the moon god Ilmaqah, although the names of two other Sabaean deities, Hawbas and Athtar also appear in some of the site's engravings.

The Sanaa Branch of the Deutches Archaeologisches Institut (DAI), headquartered in Berlin, initiated the excavation of the Bar'an temple in 1988 as part of a larger project centered in the Marib province. Excavation of the temple was completed in 1997, however conservation work continued for another four seasons.  The site was formally opened to the public on November 18, 2000.

The five pillars marking the entrance to this temple and inner cella, are considered to be the tallest in South Arabia. The temple grounds themselves include a ritual well and an altar for sacrifice as well as smaller altars and several alabaster benches arranged around the inner perimeter walls.

Prior to this current attack, the site was also targeted, as a result of unrest.  On Monday July 2, 2007 a suspected al-Qaida suicide bomber detonated his car inside the gates of the ancient temple killing seven Spaniards tourists and two Yemenis.

NOTE:  Archaeology in Yemen has been informed that some of the original photos identified as part of the Bar'an Temple are not part of the site.  If you have any further information or can help with identification please contact ARCA in the comments section below so we can pass your name to the AiY administrators.

For more photos of the purported damage and to follow Archaeology in Yemen on Facebook, please click here. 

January 15, 2016

Al-Qahera Castle, Taiz, Yemen, Before and After Site was Struck by Air Raids May 21, 2015.

Al-Qahera Castle, Taiz, Yemen, Before Airstrikes
Photo date and photographer unknown.
From the capital of Sana'a to Ma'rib, Aden, Dhale, Hajjah, Hodayda, Sa'ada, Shabwa, and Ta'iz: Mohannad al-Sayani, the Director of Yemen's General Organization of Antiquities and Museums has stated that at least 23 sites and monuments have been severely damaged or destroyed since beginning of the conflict in Yemen. 

ARCA, Archaeology in Yemen and Archaeology in Syria Network are trying to document all of them. 

Site 1: Al-Qahera Castle, Taiz, Yemen  
 قلعة القاهرة, تعز, ال
Al-Qahera Castle, Taiz, Yemen, Before Airstrikes
Photo date and photographer unknown.

Al-Qahira Castle(also known as Cairo Castle) is located on the highest mountain in Taiz city. Throughout history it has been a contested site of battles for the rulers who ruled Taiz as the stronghold has both a spectacular vantage point and is a defensive fortress that when occupied by military forces, makes it strategic for the control of the city.

Al-Qahera Castle, Taiz, Yemen, Photo
Uploaded June 08 2015 by Yemen Post Newspaper
The book "Taiz City, Green Branch in the Arab History", written by previous Taiz Archeological Office's Director Mohammad al-Mujahed, dates the historical construction of the castle back to the Sulaihi State between 426- 532, after Hijrah. This book states that Sultan Mohammad Assulaihi was the ruler who ordered the building of the castle though the dates of origin differ in many historic documents.

Due to its strategic point in this current conflict, the castle was targeted by airstrikes on May 21, 2015 and sustained substantial damage.

Al-Qahera Castle, Taiz, Yemen,
Photo Taken May 21, 2014 by Yalwasat News
Al-Qahera Castle, Taiz, Yemen, Photo
Uploaded on March 11, 2012 by Al-Awsh.
Al-Qahera Castle, Taiz, Yemen, Photo Uploaded
to Flickr May 21, 2014 by Gamal Alkirshi.
Al-Qahera Castle, Taiz, Yemen, Photo Uploaded
to Flickr May 21, 2014 by Gamal Alkirshi
Al-Qahera Castle, Taiz, Yemen, Photo Uploaded
to Flickr May 21, 2014 by Gamal Alkirshi
Al-Qahera Castle, Taiz, Yemen, Photo Uploaded
to Flickr May 21, 2014 by Gamal Alkirshi 
Al-Qahera Castle, Taiz, Yemen,
Photo Uploaded to Flickr May 21, 2014
by Gamal Alkirshi
Al-Qahera Castle, Taiz, Yemen,
Photo Uploaded to Flickr May 21, 2014
by Gamal Alkirshi 
 
Satelite Comparisons - Al-Qahera Castle, Taiz, Yemen,
Photo Credit - EAMENA team 

September 28, 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015 - ,,,,, No comments

UNITAR-UNOSAT Damage Assessment of Aden, Aden Governorate, Yemen

This map, produced August 28, 2015 by UNITAR’s Operational Satellite Applications Programme - UNOSAT, a technology-intensive programme delivering imagery analysis and satellite solutions to relief and development organisations within and outside the UN system illustrates satellite-detected damage and analysis of the destruction in the city of Aden, Aden Governorate, Yemen. 

Using satellite imagery acquired 21 August 2015, 10 May 2015, and 31 December 2014, UNITAR-UNOSAT has identified a total of 839 affected structures, a 30 percent increase from the previous 10 May 2015 analysis. Approximately 356 structures were destroyed, 202 severely damaged, and 270 moderately damaged. Additionally, 50 impact craters were found within the city, the majority of which were located in the vicinity of Aden International Airport. A total of 13 medical facilities were identified within 100 meters of damaged and destroyed buildings, and it is possible that these facilities also sustained some damage. 

This is a preliminary analysis and has not yet been validated in the field. If you have further information on the situation in Aden please send ground feedback to UNITAR-UNOSAT by contacting them here. 

UNITAR-UNOSAT has also developed early situation reports and analysis of other Yemen urban areas.  The most recent, completed to date are linked below. 

     Taiz City, At Ta'Ziah District, published July 9, 2015
     Sana'a City, Sana'a Governorate, published June 6, 2015
     Sadah, Saada Governorate, published May 20, 2015

The situation in Yemen is presently considered a complex emergency. 

For further information on UNITAR-UNOSAT's analysis of the situation in Yemen please check the UNITAR page on Yemen frequently. 

To follow citizen and media reporting on the destruction in Yemen via social media, please consider following Archaeology in Yemen, a Facebook page coadministered by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art and Archaeology in Syria Network 



September 20, 2015

Sunday, September 20, 2015 - ,, No comments

Lest We Forget Yemen - Update on Airstrikes on UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old City of Sana'a


Smoke billows following airstrikes in the capital of
Sana’a on August 20, 2015.
(Image Credit: AFP / Mohammed Huwais)
In one of the heaviest nights of bombardment in months, aid workers and witnesses report that air raids on Saturday, September 19 led by Saudi-led coalition warplanes,  killed at least 30 in Yemen's capital city of Sana’a.  Ten of the dead were members of the same family, killed in the Al-Falihi neighbourhood in the city's old town. 

The Local Council of Sana’a called on all UN agencies and regional and Arab organizations, as well as UNESCO, to denounce Saudi-led airstrikes against the Old City of Sana’a and to work diligently to find a resolution, condemning the ongoing attacks against the city. 

Oman’s Sultanate, through the Foreign Ministry, also summoned Eid Mohammed Al Thaqafi, the ambassador of Saudi Arabia and handed him a written letter of protest demanding an explanation after an alliance’s air strike targeted the residence of the Omani ambassador yesterday in the southern neighbourhood of Hadda, a southwestern neighbourhood of Sana'a. 

Oman's objection memo read



According to Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat, military spokesman, Brigadier-General Ahmed al-Asiri, said the coalition had targeted the Yemeni Interior Ministry building and forces loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, not the Omani ambassador's residence. In addition to the Omani residence and the Interior Ministry building, the overnight sorties struck a police station, the presidential complex of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and a party building.  The presidential complex had already been damaged in 2011, injuring Saleh and killing several others.

Oman’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement strongly denouncing Saturday’s incident and requesting that the United Nations undertake measures for ending the war in Yemen before it becomes a serious threat to the security of the region. Oman is the singular Gulf state that does not belong to the Saudi-led coalition and has offered to host planned UN-mediated peace talks between the government and rebels.

Sana'a is the largest city in Yemen and the centre of Sana'a Governorate. Inhabited for more than 2,500 years, Sana'a old city is an UNESCO World Heritage Site noted for its many-storeyed tower-houses built using pisé de terre, an ancient rammed earth method of construction that dates back to at least 7000 BCE in Pakistan.    Prior to becoming the latest victim of unrest the city of Sana'a hosted 103 mosques, 14 hammams and over 6,000 houses, all built before the 11th century. 

Dr. Iris Gerlach, a specialist in the archaeology of southern Arabia and director of the Sana’a Branch of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) has provided UNESCO with a “no-strike” list of all the important archaeological sites in Yemen to forward on to the Saudi government.  She conceded 


On September 01, 2015, The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented 6,631 civilian casualties, including 2,112 civilian deaths, and 4,519 wounded since the start of the conflict in Yemen escalated in March 2015.

Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and Jennifer Welsh, UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, issued a statement September 15th on the situation in Yemen expressing concern at the ever increasing impact on civilians of the ongoing conflict and the virtual silence of the international community about the threat to populations.

As we continue to destroy the past, we are losing the future. 

By: Lynda Albertson,