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Which underlying causes can be identified for the differences between Belgian and Dutch museums in ideas about contested colonial and archaeological heritage?

Frauke Vandoren 12771023


Master Mediterranean Archaeology

University of Amsterdam Supervisor:

Dr. G. J. M. van Wijngaarden


The backgrounds of Contested Histories

Which underlying causes can be identified for the differences between Belgian and Dutch museums in

ideas about contested colonial and archaeological heritage?

Author: Frauke Vandoren Student number: 12771023

Master Thesis

Programme: Mediterranean Archaeology Faculty: Graduate School of Humanities Educational institution: University of Amsterdam

Supervisor: Dr. G.J.M. van Wijngaarden Second reader: Dr. M.H.E Hoijtink

Date: 05/08/2021 Word count: 19338


Table of Contents

Introduction ... 3

CHAPTER 1 – The different types of contested museum artefacts ... 8

1.1 Colonialism ... 8

1.2 Illegal art trade ... 10

1.3 National importance ... 12

1.4 Change of ethics ... 17

1.5 War heritage ... 19

CHAPTER 2 – How have ideas about contested archaeological heritage developed over time? ... 21

2.1 Five myths of the Antiquities market ... 23

2.2 Who owns culture? ... 29

2.3 Can museums really change? ... 30

CHAPTER 3 – How do Belgian and Dutch museums deal with contested archaeological heritage? ... 38

3.1 Belgium ... 39

3.1.1 How does Belgium deal with contested heritage? ... 39

3.1.2 AfricaMuseum ... 41

3.1.3 Analysis of the AfricaMuseum ... 42

3.2 The Netherlands ... 44

3.2.1 How does the Netherlands deal with contested heritage? ... 44

3.2.2 Tropenmuseum ... 45

3.2.3 Analysis of the Tropenmuseum ... 47

3.3 Comparison ... 48

3.3.1 Discussion on why objects are disputed ... 49

4. Conclusion and a personal view to the future ... 52

Bibliography ... 56


The Backgrounds of Contested Histories

Which underlying causes can be identified for the differences between Belgian and Dutch museums in ideas about contested colonial and archaeological heritage?


On the 30th of April 1910, a year after the death of King Leopold II of Belgium, the ‘Congo- museum’ in Tervuren celebrated its ceremonial opening. On the 9th of December 2018, more than one hundred years later and after three years of renovation, the renovated

‘AfricaMuseum’ opened its doors again (see fig. 1).

Fig. 1 The AfricaMuseum in Tervuren. Liesbeth Verhulst, 2018. Source: https://www.architectura.be/nl/nieuws/20960/vernieuwd- afrikamuseum-in-tervuren-onthuld

In the basement of the building visitors can find the busts, statues and casts of Congolese colonials. It is also here that the famous leopard man has ended up: an ominous statue of a Congolese in a leopard uniform creeping up to a sleeping man (see fig. 2). Statues like these represent the vision from the old ‘Koninklijke museum voor Midden-Afrika’, which King Leopold II ordered to be built at the end of the nineteenth century as justification and showpiece for the “civilizing mission” of colonialism (De Vries, 2018). This image is exactly what the director no longer wants in the renewed AfricaMuseum, says Guido Gryseels in a


news article from Trouw. “These images no longer belong in the permanent collection” (De Vries, 2018).

And it is exactly this corner of the now white painted basement that is being criticized, among other spaces in the museum. Even though the internal staff, of whom only eight percent are from African descent, held extensive discussions about the approach and design of the museum halls. The basement received criticism along with the large dome, which serves as the entrance to the museum, and which remains unchanged and therefore still is a glorification of Leopold II, whose anagram is nonetheless everywhere to be seen. There are still statues in the niches that portray the Congolese people as ‘primitive’ (De Vries, 2018).

The basement and placement of the statues are criticized for many reasons. Some say it seems like the museum wants to hide the statues and not show the awful past they are connected to, and therefore they are in the basement instead of the permanent collection.

As a comment to this placement of the statues, it has been said that they should be removed from the museum if they do not want the public to see them. Or on the other hand they should be upstairs, not hidden away, with an accompanying explanation of what can be seen, so visitors of the museum can encounter the statues and see how colonialism impacted the museum in the past.

Since the reopening of the museum the debate about colonial looted art has rekindled, and the question of what to do with cultural artefacts with a contested

provenance has also come to the attention to other European countries. Not only the debate on colonial art is important, but also the debates around, illegally excavated antiquities and wartime looted objects. Also, in the Netherlands the debate on disputed cultural artefacts is

Fig. 2 Basement of the AfricaMuseum in Tervuren.


https://www.toerismevlaamsbrabant.be/producte n/bezoeken/bezienswaardigheden/africamuseum/


flaring up. Various museums are taking steps towards potential restitution of looted art in their collections. The ‘Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen’ (NMvW), in the Netherlands, a fusion of the ‘Tropenmuseum’, ‘Afrikamuseum’ and ‘Museum Volkenkunde’, has made a list of criteria on the basis of which claims can be submitted for the restitution of objects from their collections (Khaddari & Wiegeman, 2019). There are many other museums in the Netherlands that have (colonial) looted art. The NMvW itself has more than 170.000 objects from Indonesia. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has around 4000 objects with a colonial background and the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden has at least 10.000 cultural objects with a colonial or looted background acquired from among others Egypt, Greece, Phoenicia, and Assyria (Dijksterhuis, 2020). Egypt, Greece, Phoenicia and Assyria were not colonies of the Netherlands, but with money earned from colonial slave trading, the Netherlands was able to build several big collections with objects originating from these Mediterranean countries.

It has come to my attention that in most of the previously mentioned sources antiquities are seen as disputed because of their colonial past. Indeed, both the Netherlands and Belgium have a colonial past. The Netherlands in first instance under the authority of the ‘Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie’ (VOC) and the ‘West-Indische Compagnie’ (WIC). They established colonies in the West like Suriname and in the East for example Indonesia. Belgium had two big colonies in its history, Congo and Ruanda-urandi. Belgium also had some smaller colonial projects in Santo Tomás, Rio Nuñez and Tianjin. As already noted, during this colonial period, from the late sixteenth century to the Second World War, not all cultural objects from the colonies were lawfully acquired by the European rulers.

However, being a looted colonial object is not the only reason antiquities are disputed in museums. Illegally acquired archaeological artefacts have also been a problem for many decades: “The most single source of destruction of the archaeological heritage today is through looting: the illicit, unrecorded and unpublished excavation to provide antiquities for commercial profit. This constitutes an unmitigated and continuing catastrophe for the world’s archaeological heritage” (Renfrew, 1999, p. 6).

Therefore, in this research I will focus on the following question: Which underlying causes can be identified for the differences between Belgian and Dutch museums in ideas


underlying causes for contested colonial and archaeological heritage and what are the ideological differences in Belgian and Dutch museums concerning contested colonial and archaeological heritage.

One can imagine that an object acquired by a country or a museum 30 years or so ago was not yet disputed at that time, but now it is. This could also be because at the time of acquisition, there was not as much attention for the discussion about wrongfully or illegally acquired objects as there is now. But we must not forget that there were some periods in history when the discussion about restitution and illicit antiquities was very much topical.

For example during World War II, 1940-1945, many cultural objects were acquired

unlawfully. That unlawfulness is often not questioned (Muller & Schretlen, 2002, 27). The German occupation forced Jewish people to sell their property or, after being deported, their properties were stolen from their homes (Muller & Schretlen, 2002, 27). After the war many countries put up a plan for restitution of objects that were stolen during the war.

With the help of case studies from both Belgium, the Netherlands and other countries I will try to provide a comprehensive answer to the research question of this thesis, the aspects, which are the basis for disputed possession, and their development over time in both Belgium and the Netherlands. With aspects I mean the reasons why objects are disputed, such as archaeological, social and legal reasons. In this research I will make use of literature study and interpretation. I will use both popular sources such as newspaper articles and scientific and academic literature.

In the first chapter the different aspects that are the possible basis for disputed possession will be investigated. To identify these aspects legal instruments such as treaties and conventions will be discussed. In this chapter recent cases of contested artifacts will be examined to show the different possible aspects and to show how intricate these cases are.

I will make an ‘international scan’ which helps clarify the problem worldwide: it shows the complexity, diversity and widespread nature of contested artifacts.

The second chapter will build further on the first chapter and investigate how these reasons why an archaeological object is disputed have changed over time. The timeframe will go as far back as the 1970’s. Including cases of contested artifacts from right after the World War, would go beyond the scope of this thesis. And I chose this specific date because of the UNESCO 1970 convention. “This 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and


Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property urges States Parties to take measures to prohibit and prevent the illicit trafficking of cultural property. It provides a common framework for the States Parties on the measures to be taken to prohibit and prevent the import, export and transfer of cultural property. The return and restitution of cultural property is central to the Convention and its duty is not only to remember but to fundamentally safeguard the identity of peoples and promote peaceful societies whereby the spirit of solidarity will be strengthened” (UNESCO website, 2021). The Convention was submitted during the sixteenth session of the General Conference of the Organization in 1970 and adopted on the fourteenth of November that year. This makes UNESCO a pioneer in fighting the illicit trafficking of cultural property (UNESCO website, 2021). Before this 1970 Convention there were no rules or measures that could be followed and therefore artefacts were possibly imported or exported more often through illegal means.

As mentioned, museums are now taking an active role in the issue and are taking steps to conduct research themselves. To study these aspects primary sources will be used such as documents from the advisory committee of the council of culture, in addition, secondary literature will also be examined, for example to discuss the vision of

archaeologists and museums.

Based on my findings from the first chapters, the third chapter highlights more of the practical matters. In this chapter, I will investigate in what way Belgian and Dutch museums look at contested archaeological and colonial heritage.

In the conclusion I will summarize my findings and make possible recommendations for further research.


CHAPTER 1 – The different types of contested museum artefacts

To research which underlying causes can be identified for the differences in Belgian and Dutch museums in ideas about contested colonial and archaeological heritage, it is

important to determine why artefacts are contested in the first place. In this first chapter I will examine the different types of contested museum artefacts. I won’t confine my research in this chapter to archaeological heritage, since I want to give an overview of all possible reasons why museum artefacts are contested. In the next chapter I will then narrow down my scope to archaeological heritage and research how within archaeology these ideas about contested archaeological artefacts have changed during the last decades. Five different reasons will be discussed to show how complex contested heritage is.

1.1 Colonialism

One of the first reason I want to discuss why artefacts are disputed had already been

addressed in the introduction, and that is colonialism. As mentioned before, many European countries have had colonies in the past. For example, during the periods of colonisation by the Dutch in Indonesia and Sri Lanka among others, many objects were removed from their place of origin and taken back to the Netherlands (Bouquet, 2013, 221). The way everyday things were obtained and collected reinforced popular ideas about the superiority of the gathering community over the community whose objects were collected. In contrast with Belgium, the Netherlands did not work as a nation to acquire objects, the state placed the infrastructure for the VOC to exist, it was a private trade company. Only after almost 200 years of existence, the company was nationalised in 1796, and dissolved in 1799. All assets were then taken over by the government with VOC territories becoming Dutch government colonies (Balk et al. 2007, 14). This contrast between Belgian and Dutch colonialism will be explained more in the third chapter. The power of the Dutch traders and the VOC to acquire objects from the farthest corners of the world, from the colonial empire or through the complex networks between the museums of the colonial powers was expressed by owning a fine ethnographic collection (Bouquet, 2013, 221). These objects could also be given as a gift or brought to the Netherlands to ‘save’ the object from destruction. Nowadays, these objects are disputed because of their sometimes brutal acquisition which gives them a negative connotation. An example of this is the Surinamese banjo (see fig. 3) from the collection of Museum Volkenkunde. It was collected between 1772 and 1777 by Scottish-


Dutch officer John Gabriel Stedman in Suriname. Stedman served in a Scottish regiment of the States army and in his illustrious ‘Narrative of a FiveYears Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam’, he described the campaigns against Maroon communities and the atrocities committed by plantation owners against the enslaved population (Raad voor Cultuur, 2020, 11). Although it cannot be said with certainty that the objects Stedman collected have been given involuntarily, they were undeniably acquired in a colonial context (Raad voor Cultuur, 2020, 11).

This is an obvious example; the Surinamese banjo was collected in a colonial context.

But where does this colonial context end? What if an object is bought or a home is built with money earned by trading slaves who were enslaved during the colonial period? In my

opinion this object or home is then still acquired in a colonial context. A good example of this is the Mauritshuis from Johan Maurits in Den Hague (see fig. 4)

The Mauritshuis is now a museum with a collection belonging to the government. Johan Maurits was the first owner of the Mauritshuis and the house was built by his order. Maurits

Fig. 3 Banjo, Museum Volkenkunde. Source: Raad voor Cultuur, ‘Koloniale Collecties en Erkenning van Onrecht’, Den Haag, oktober 2020, p. 1-138.

Fig. 4 Mauritshuis Den Hague. Source:




industry. But now it is also known that he played an important role in the history of the Dutch slavery past (Mauritshuis, 2021). Maurits initiated the Dutch slave trade, on behalf of the WIC. Besides this he was also personally involved in slavery and the slave trade. Many slaves worked in his court and he also earned money from the sale of Africans that the King of Congo had given him as a present. In collaboration with Portuguese people at his court, he also smuggled enslaved people into Brazil. It is impossible to determine exactly how much money he earned with this (Mauritshuis, 2021). But we can assume that the Mauritshuis was built with money earned via slave trade. The question if this house and the objects that are in the museum that belonged to Maurits are ethically bought could be posed here.

1.2 Illegal art trade

The second reason why archaeological objects are disputed has to do with the illegal art trade. At the center of dispute in illegal art trade is the question of unprovenanced antiquities and the circulation of stolen artworks (Cuno, 2008, 5). In conventional terms, when an ancient artefact has modern gaps in its chain of ownership it is an unprovenanced antiquity. Unprovenanced antiquities are likely to have been looted from an archaeological site. The destruction of archaeological sites and the loss of the knowledge they contain is bad, those who encourage it are bad as well and therefore acquiring unprovenanced antiquities is often criticized as unethical. The question that arises by stating this is if every unprovenanced antiquity was once part of an archaeological site? This depends on the used definition of an archaeological artefact, which I am calling an antiquity. The general

definition that is used in political agreements and treaties of an antiquity is an object that is older than 150 years (Cuno, 2008, 5).

Cuno (2008, 7) mentions that archaeologists argue that unprovenanced antiquities are sold and archaeological sites are looted because antiquities have a commercial value and if they did not have a commercial value, they would not be sold and looted. To protect archaeological sites and to conserve the knowledge they contain, antiquities should be deprived of their commercial value end thus people should stop buying them. People should of course also stop selling and looting them, but Cuno explains this falls to source nations to accomplish and is extremely difficult. Cuno (2008, 7) also claims that source nations would have to police all their borders and all suspicious and known archaeological sites within their


borders to prevent the illicit export of antiquities. It is unlikely that this can be done: the national borders are too porous, there are too many archaeological sites, and the nations themselves are too poor. Cuno argues that it rather should be up to the acquiring nations to reinforce restrictions against buying and importing unprovenanced antiquities (Cuno, 2008, 7). If we assume that everything is linked to nation states, like Cuno (2008) does, a

complexity of factors would disappear. Hence it is important to look with critical eyes to both sides of the discourse. Looting is a multifaceted problem, which makes it impossible to ascribe all the components that make make it a problem to nations.

What is to be done? Following Renfrew (1999, 6-7), there are two approaches to the problem. The first is to diminish or eliminate clandestine excavation in the countries of origin; the second is to tackle the distribution and consumption of illicit antiquities. Both are clearly no easy tasks. To encourage less looting heritage for private financial gain, it is important that the economic value of the heritage of a nation is of benefit to local communities. To reach this goal it is advisable that each nation has a well-informed and sound antiquities service, together with strong laws that protect its antiquities and national monuments, which should be well displayed. This should be accompanied by a network of local museums centered upon a national museum (Renfrew, 1999, 6-7).

In the second approach to the problem, Renfrew (1999, 7) argues that the role of the academic community should be more clear. Scholars should make clear to the (informed) public that purchasing unprovenanced antiquities has the inevitable consequence of funding the ongoing looting process. “To the observation that there are antiquities on the market which were excavated long ago, the appropriate response may be to take an arbitrary year, say 1970, the year of the UNESCO Convention of the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property” (Renfrew, 1999, 7).

Unfortunately, our heritage, the material remains of past human activities, is being destroyed at an unseen pace (Brodie, 2005, 344). This problem is by no means a new one, but is has grown more clear-cut and more acute in the recent decades. Part of this

destruction comes from agricultural activities including the reworking of the earth’s surface, part is brought about by natural agencies such as inundation and erosion, or urban

development which involves the construction of motorways and buildings. But a significant proportion of this destruction is brought about by looting, people directly or indirectly


It is also very worrying that these private collectors sometimes find their collecting activities tacitly legitimized or supported by some important museums, notably in the United States, in Europe, and in Japan (Brodie, 2005, 344). It is likely that the looting will continue

undiminished unless leading museums, end their relationships with private collectors adopt more exacting standards. After all, museums are still seen as the keepers of the public conscience in this area (Brodie, 2005, 344).

Using archaeological surveys of regions and individual sites, some quantitative information about the destruction of monuments and archaeological sites has been provided. A survey in a district of northern Pakistan showed that nearly half the Buddhist monasteries, stupas, and shrines, had been destroyed or badly damaged by illegal

excavations (Ali & Coningham 1998). Between 1989 and 1991 a regional survey in Mali discovered 830 archaeological sites, but 45% had already been damaged, 17% badly. In 1996 a sample of 80 sites were revisited and the incidence of looting had increased by 20%

(Bedaux & Rowlands 2001, p. 872) In Andalusia, Spain, 14% of known archaeological sites have been damaged by illicit excavation (Fernandez Cacho & Sanjua ́n 2000). In 1983, one study showed that 58.6% of all Mayan sites in Belize had been damaged by looters (Gutchen 1983) (Brodie, 2005, 346).

1.3 National importance

Another reason why archaeological heritage is disputed, is because of national importance.

Artefacts that were acquired through rather dubious means are now argued to ‘belong’ to their country of origin.

Cuno (2008, 33) argues that nationalist cultural politics and their legal instruments claim ownership of the world’s ancient heritage, they call for the return of cultural artifacts to national jurisdictions. They declare antiquities found within the borders of modern nations as the cultural property of those nations. And they claim spiritual, cultural, and even racial descent from the ancient peoples who made those antiquities. The Rosetta Stone was used to decipher ancient hieroglyphs from which the history of ancient Egypt has been written as the origins of modern Egypt, it should be returned to Egypt because ‘it is the icon of our Egyptian identity’ (Cuno, 2008, 32). The Parthenon Marbles connects modern Greeks to their ancient ancestors and embodies Greece’s spirit and confirm ancient legitimacy on


Greece’s modern government. That’s why they should be returned to Greece, because they are of Greece (Cuno, 2008, 32). And Chinese antiquities belong in china. They illustrate China’s grand and long and history, which is still present in the living culture of modern China. That they currently are outside China is a sad reminder of the disgraceful doings of treasonous politicians and foreign imperialists and who removed much of the Imperial collection to Taiwan on the eve of the Communist victory. China, Egypt and Greece have each authorized strict cultural property laws installing ownership of antiquities found or thought to have been found within their state jurisdiction: their export is forbidden without state permission because they are state property (Cuno, 2008, 32). The international

archaeological community has allied with national governments in encouraging such laws (and the bilateral treaties and international conventions which reinforce them) because it believes they protect archaeological sites from looting and destruction (Cuno, 2008, 32).

Cuno (2008, 33) is very much against these nationalistic ideas: He argues that nations have failed to keep archaeological sites from destruction and looting. “All of the cultural property laws in force over the past four decades have not stopped-cannot stop-this. They are a failed regime. Calling for more and ever more restrictive laws will make no difference.

Archaeological sites will continue to be looted so long as there are people anywhere in the world willing to pay money for looted antiquities, and so long are there are people living in poverty and the chaos of war and sectarian conflict who are willing to break the law to uncover and sell them” (Cuno, 2008, 33).

The question Cuno asks himself is whether the fate of the antiquities alienated from their archaeological context and the archaeological record itself should remain under the jurisdiction of national governments. He states that an alternative is possible: ‘Partage’

(Cuno, 2008, 33). Under the policy of partage, excavations and expertise could be lent by foreign excavation teams and in return they could share the finds with the local

governments archaeological museums. Partage thus embraces and encourages the scientific excavation of the archaeological record and the sharing and preservation of ancient artifacts between international museums and local governments. Partage disappeared in the second half of the twentieth century with the introduction of national retentionist cultural property laws (Cuno, 2008, p. 33). James Cuno was the former director of the Art Institute of Chicago and since 2011 he serves as CEO and president of the J. Paul Getty Trust (Harvard University,


be argued that he is not in favour of the nationalist cultural politics because of his own political agenda and self-interest. Because he is the CEO of such an important cultural organ – it is the world’s largest cultural and philanthropic organization dedicated to the visual arts (J. Paul Getty Trust website, 2021)- it is more or less self-evident that he is supports ideas such as ‘partage’ and encyclopaedic museums.

A good example of national importance connected to archaeological heritage is the Pergamon altar (see fig. 5).

The Hellenistic Zeus altar has been the showpiece of the Pergamon Museum in Berlin since 1910 (Baykal, 2020). In august 2020 Sefa Taskin, the former mayor of Bergama, a small Turkish town near ancient Pergamon spoke from the stage of the Roman theatre, within the Asclepius sanctuary of the ancient city Pergamon, to the city representatives of Izmir, the capital of the province, in which Pergamon also lies. During his speech, he told the people listening about the cultural heritage, the tourism and the history of the former city near the west coast of today’s Turkey, highlighting its importance. He explained that 160 years ago German officials illegally removed the marble which was considered sacred (Baykal, 2020).

Immediately after the historical lecture, those present voted unanimously to initiate measures to bring back the ancient altar. "From today we will work hand in hand for the return of the Zeus altar to Pergamon," said Tunç Soyer, the mayor of Izmir, after the meeting. The mayor announced the immediate establishment of a commission and a letter written jointly by all members to the Turkish Minister of Culture. The letter should

Fig. 5 The Pergamon alter. Source:Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung / image: Johannes Laurentius



encourage all legal and diplomatic measures required to reclaim the altar. Less than three weeks before the open-air city council meeting, a committee, partly made up by retired university professors, diplomats, and lawyers, had announced that it would campaign for the return of the altar to Pergamon - and on this occasion also expressly pointed to the "power of public opinion” (Baykal, 2020).

Almost ten years ago, there was another serious irritation between German scientists and the Turkish authorities when the then Minister of Culture publicly and unequivocally linked the extension of the excavation licenses of the German Archaeological Institute in Turkey to the concession of the responsible Berlin authorities on restitution issues (Baykal, 2020). When Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, described the Turkish approach in this context as "almost chauvinistic," the Turkish minister was angry. Ultimately, a 3,400-year-old Hittite sphinx, which had come to Berlin for

restoration in 1917 and stayed there, suddenly and without much fuss went back to Turkey (Baykal, 2020). "As a voluntary gesture of the special bond between our peoples," as Parzinger emphasized. Whether the Sphinx was legally in Berlin for decades or not is a matter of opinion, the sculpture itself was a point of contention in the often-confusing mix of restitution issues.

The situation with the Pergamon alter is completely different. The Turkish side now says that the German engineer Carl Humann (1839-1896) illegally excavated the frieze

between 1868 and 1878 and took it out of the country (Baykal, 2020). In Berlin, however, the view is that the German carried out his excavations mainly from 1878 and with the

permission of the Ottoman Empire. The sending of the Pergamon Altar to Germany was officially and legally correct following the German point of view (Baykal, 2020).

A diplomatic agreement seems almost impossible in view of the opposed legal conceptions that both parties have. But at the same time, Sefa Taşkın, probably knows that the Pergamon Altar will not be delivered from Berlin to Bergama in the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation is not very stressed about the entire situation (Bayal, 2020). Despite all the public announcements, there is still no official request for the return of the Pergamon Altar. However, should one ever arrive, the

Foundation trusts the clear legal situation: "The documents on the divisions of the finds are well known on both the German and Turkish sides," said press officer Birgit Jöbstl to


Spektrum.de. "They prove that the parts of the building located here lawfully came to Berlin" (Hakan, Bayal, 2020).

Another example from Germany is the famous bust from Nefertiti (see fig. 6).

In recent years, Cairo has led a drive to claim back its antiquities that were smuggled overseas illegally. The bust of Nefertiti, a queen of the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, was discovered by a German excavation team led by archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt in Minya governate. He illegally smuggled the sculpture out of Egypt in 1913. Because the bust was discovered in the workshop of Thutmose, who was known as ‘The King’s Favourite and Master of Works, the Sculptor Thutmose’, the work is both for the prominence of its maker and its aesthetic value highly regarded (The New Arab, 2020). At the time when it was

‘stolen’, foreign archaeologists were required to hand over antiquities believed to be of considerable importance. Other, smaller finds would be shared between the Egyptian

Museum and the foreign teams. Egypt has attempted to get the bust back from the Germans since the early 1920s without success (The New Arab, 2020). Germany disputes that the bust was taken illegally and says that it was acquired as part of Borchardt’s share of finds. In 1933, Hitler reportedly refused to return the statue as he wanted it displayed in a museum in his planned capital, Germania. After the Second World War, King Farouk of Egypt tried to get the statue returned via the Allied Control Council in Germany. In 2011, former secretary-

Fig. 6 Nefertiti bust. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung / Sandra Steiß. Source: https://www.smb.museum/en/museums- institutions/aegyptisches-museum-und-

papyrussammlung/collection-research/bust-of- nefertiti/the-bust/


general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, wrote a letter to Germany to ask for the repatriation of the bust. The most recent attempt to retrieve the artefact was in September of 2020, the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled al Anani reiterated Cairo’s intention to repatriate the bust. On September 19th 2020, Anani said in a television appearance that Germany declined his request to return the Nefertiti bust to Egypt, but that they gave him five other antiquities instead that belonged in Egypt. German authorities, say that the statue belongs to the Neues Museum in Berlin. Moreover, German authorities claim that Egypt has made no official requests for the bust to return, adding that Germany is always open for negotiations (The New Arab, 2020).

1.4 Change of ethics

A fourth reason why archaeological heritage is disputed is because of the changing ethics around an object, especially human remains. Some believe that it is disrespectful to the dead and to their descendants for their remains to be displayed in a museum (not in their country of origin) or stored other ways (Scarre & Scarre, 2006, 206-208).

ICOM (International Council of Museums), has a set of recommendations and ‘rules’

in place in their Code of Ethics for Museums (2004). Chapter two deals with acquiring, removing and the care of collections. In chapter two part five they focus on culturally

sensitive material: “Collections of human remains, and material of sacred significance should be acquired only if they can be housed securely and cared for respectfully. This must be accomplished in a manner consistent with professional standards and the interests and beliefs of members of the community, ethnic or religious groups from which the objects originated, where these are known” (ICOM, 2004, 10).

The past decades we have witnessed the emergence of what has been referred to as the ‘reburial’ issue. Native American, Australian Aborigines and other indigenous people in different parts of the world have campaigned for the human remains of their ancestors to be returned. In several occasions they are also asking for the accompanying grave goods and other sacred objects. It is often seen as an indigenous issue but people all over the world wish for the return of their dead (Hubert & Fforde, 2005, 117). After wars, the families of those who were killed often want their bodies brought back to them so that they can be buried at home (Hubert & Fforde, 2005, 117).


Indigenous people request the return of human remains of their ancestors for multiple reasons, but primary so that their ancestors can get funerary rituals appropriate to their cultural believes. Of course, these rituals vary in form and function, but generally, they have a prominent role in many societies (Hubert & Fforde, 2005, 118). Often, without funerary rituals, the process of death is considered incomplete. This restitution process is part of a bigger idea, namely that people can make their own decisions regarding what should happen to their ancestors remains. They want to claim their own pasts and what should or shouldn’t be part of their cultural heritage. It is also claimed that return of human remains and important cultural objects from traumatic events of the past can help the people who ask for their return to come to terms with their past and begin to heal the wounds of the people as a group (Hubert & Fforde, 2005, 118). In countries that have been colonized the issue of human remains has an added connotation (Hubert & Fforde, 2005, 118). This added connotation is linked to the fact that the enslaved people from colonized countries sometimes found their death in the country of the colonizer. The remains of people their ancestors being in the country of the colonizer makes it possibly even more painful for them.

Regarding the discussions about the returning of human remains, there are both arguments against and for the return of human remains and materials (Hubert & Fforde, 2005, 118). On the one hand there are the (indigenous) claimants’ cultural beliefs and motivations, on the other hand remains have scientific value and should be preserved in museums and institutional collections. Human remains have been removed from their context for multiple reasons as well. For example, it could be that during an archaeological excavation, remains were removed for archaeologists or physical anthropologists to be studied, or remains might also be moved from their context during the building of houses, roads and railways (Hubert & Fforde, 2005, 118).

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and the National Museum of the American Indian Act (NMAI Act) are the most significant players who developed legislation in regard to human remains and funerary goods, their enactment from the early 1990s have proved to have a strong influence even beyond the United States.

Hubert and Fforde (2005, 122) highlight some important points concerning the return of human remains: “first, museum records cannot always be relied on for their accuracy;

second, the repatriation process requires detailed archival research to determine or validate


provenance; third, relatives may, in some instances, choose to keep remains (temporarily or permanently) in museums; and fourth, the return of human remains may not always result in harmony within the group receiving them, but dissension” (Hubert & Fforde, 2005, 122).

But not only in the US they are dealing with human remains. In 2020 the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) decided to start mapping the human remains, including those collected in colonial times, in Belgian museums, research institutes and private collections. Not only does the research team want to capture the historical, scientific and ethical context of the collections, it will also investigate the legal possibilities of

returning human remains from outside Belgium back to families, institutions or countries.

The project has been christened HOME. “In recent decades, France, Germany and

Switzerland, among others, have returned human remains at the request of family members or states,” said chief curator Patrick Semal, who coordinates the project. For example, France has returned Maori heads to New Zealand. The country also returned the remains of slave Sawtche (Saartjie Baartman) to South Africa. It was exhibited as a human attraction in Europe in the nineteenth century under the name Hottentot-Venus (Trouw, 2020).

There are no guidelines in Belgium for storing and managing human remains. There is also no legal framework for returning them. The country has a fraught colonial past in Africa and there are many stolen goods and human remains in museums and other collections. For example there are said to be 300 Congolese skulls in Belgium. (Trouw, 2020).

1.5 War heritage

The last possible reason for archaeological heritage to be disputed, which I discuss here, is war heritage. War heritage is often closely connected to all the previous reasons for heritage to be disputed. War heritage could also include human remains, it could be acquired through illegal trade or through the atrocities of colonialism. Objects that are considered war

heritage can also have a national importance for a country. The question “who has a right to keep the spoils of war” can be raised multiple times when looking back at our history. For example, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, in the 19th century, victorious European countries started recovering treasures which had been looted by the enemy in the earlier campaigns (Leyten 1995, 14). But also after the Second World War many repatriation plans were set up. Many buildings and monuments were destroyed during the war and the


response to this devastation was the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. In addition, some places have become so laden with symbolic meaning and affective associations that they are seen as cultural war heritage by various groups or by countries.

Brodie (2005, 345) states that many museums proclaim that they would never acquire cultural material from Iraq in the aftermath of the war there, but he predicted (correctly), that within a few years, some museums would do that while claiming that they are saving the cultural heritage which they are stealing or justifying it with ignorance for the origins of the objects. Some museums have done exactly this with materials acquired after the wars in Afghanistan (Brodie, 2005, 345). More and more trafficking in antiquities from warzones in the Middle East are taking place. Terrorist groups like ISIS attacked and destroyed places such as the Temple of Bel in Palmyra (see fig. 7) and the contents of the museum in Mosul, Iraq, as part of a concerted propaganda campaign to demonstrate their power to act with impunity (Unesco Website, 2021). Cultural heritage sites became strategic locations for armed groups like ISIS. They recognize the international importance of these sites and use them for their own benefit. ISIS knew that they were less likely to be targeted when they occupied the Ancient Syrian city of Palmyra in 2015 and they took full advantage of the fact that it was a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural

Organisation) World Heritage site (Unesco Website, 2021).

Fig. 7 Temple of Bel in Palmyra. (photo: Silvan Rehfeld) Source:



In this first chapter I discussed the different types of contested museum artefacts. I explained five different reasons why artefacts can be disputed on the basis of some

examples. I will use these reasons in my discussion later in this thesis to make clear what the differences are in ideas about contested colonial and archaeological artefacts in museums in Belgium and the Netherlands.

CHAPTER 2 – How have ideas about contested archaeological heritage developed over time?

In this second chapter the focus is on how ideas about contested archaeological heritage have developed over time. I will research several developments since 1970, because of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, which was instituted in that year. For this I will make use of recent literature and examples from different countries to show how complex and widespread this problem of contested heritage is. I will research five specific ways how antiquities are being disguised to be collected in a legal way while actually they were acquired through illegal means.

Since the implementation of the UNESCO convention there has only been one lawsuit invoking Dutch legislation regarding the return of cultural objects. This lawsuit concerns the return of the Crimean treasures (Hof Amsterdam, 2019). These are cultural objects from the Crimea (see fig. 8) that have been loaned to the Allard Pierson Museum in 2013 and they were exhibited in the museum from the 6th of February 2014 until the 31st of august 2014.

During this exhibition the Autonomous Republic of Crimea on the 6th of March 2014 agreed to the separation with Ukraine and the joining of the Russian Federation. Both the state of Ukraine and the museums in Crimea claimed the Crimean treasures. In these proceedings, the Court of Appeal in Amsterdam ruled on appeal that Article 6.3 of the Heritage Act does not apply in this case, because the Crimean treasures were not unlawfully removed from the territory of the contracting state. In 2016, the Amsterdam court decided that the objects must go back to Ukraine because Crimea still belongs to that country according to international law. Now the question remains, to who does the museum give the objects back? This is a discussion that has been going on for more than five years now, and still


hasn’t been resolved. The judge has decided that when following the rules of UNESCO, two things are central to the discussion. First of all, the art does not belong to a museum or a region but to a state; second UNESCO states that art treasures can never go back to disputed territory. Since Crimea is occupied by Russia it can be considered disputed territory and so the museums don’t get their gold back (Bosman, 2019). But we must keep in mind that Russia does not consider this territory disputed. So, it can be concluded that this is not an objective criterium to decide on. This is a recent example of how the Dutch government handles objects that need to be returned to their country of origin. This example is very specific and unique and therefore not representative for how the Netherlands handles other cases of contested archaeological heritage. But because it is the only lawsuit regarding the return of cultural objects it might be a good example of how complicated such a lawsuit truly is. It shows that if a possible next case would turn into a lawsuit invoking Dutch legislation that it is really hard to decide to who, or rather which country a cultural object belongs to.

In 2020 another lawsuit in the Netherlands followed, not concerning archaeological objects like the Crimean case but concerning the return of a painting by Wassily Kandinsky. A statement in 2018 about a painting by Wassily Kandinsky that is part of the permanent collection of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam led to considerable protest. The Restitutions Committee had ruled that the canvas, bought by the municipality of Amsterdam at an auction in October 1940, did not have to be returned to the heirs. They then went to court, something that rarely happens. A decision in this case will be made shortly (Kruijt, 2020).

The main impact of the 1970 Paris Convention is, together with a legal framework to pursue illegal art trafficking, undoubtedly the change in attitude. The international

Fig. 8 Crimean Gold. Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam. Source:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world- europe-38314491


community exerts moral pressure on those dealing in cultural objects and on those concerned with the protection of cultural heritage, even in states which are not parties of the Convention. Those who acquire cultural property (dealers, collectors, and museums) are now more aware of what the international community acknowledges to be unacceptable or morally right – and what not. On the other hand, it has encouraged those who are

responsible for the protection of heritage to work more closely with other services such as museums, customs, and with the police to enhance the efficiency of their protective measures (Clément, 1995, 51).

Unfortunately, the 1970 convention only covers stolen or illicitly obtained, transferred cultural objects, and it does not contain any international agreements on matters such as the position of an owner in good faith. Therefore, the scope of the 1970 Convention is too limited to protect and consider all elements that are involved in the antiquities market and the trade of cultural objects. Because of this UNESCO approached UNIDROIT in 1984, an intergovernmental organization that concerns itself with the harmonization of private law (Clément, 1995, 55). In 1995 The Convention on Stolen or Illegally exported Cultural Objects was installed. This Convention supplements that of 1970 in terms of private law and covers cases of restitution.

2.1 Five myths of the Antiquities market

In the first chapter I discussed why museum artefacts can be disputed. In this paragraph I will research five different myths of the antiquities market following Elia (2009, 244- 254).

These myths are also possible reasons why museum artefacts can be disputed, specifically archaeological artefacts. Essentially, these myths are developments that have started to occur during the past few decades in the antiquities market since the 1970 UNESCO

Convention. I chose these five ‘myths’ because they account for the intransigence of dealers and collectors who seem to deny their responsibility for stimulating the looting of

archaeological sites. They have embraced these five myths that insulate them from the destructive reality of the antiquities market. I believe that these myths are rather the reality that started to develop after the 1970 Convention because collectors and dealers tried to acquire and sell archaeological objects in the same way as before the 1970 Convention was established. There is no specific date that can be connected to the exact start of these myths


or chronological order the five myths can be arranged in, but they all found their origin after 1970. These myths have occurred at the same time throughout history and are still used now as ‘lies’ to cover up what is really happening in the antiquities market.

The first myth is the Myth of the Old Collection. Elia (2009, 244-245) explains that old

collection provenances are notoriously untrustworthy, they have even become kind of a joke since Karl Meyer exposed them in his book in 1973, The Plundered Past as a handy way for dealers to “launder” objects that are actually smuggled and looted. Forgeries of provenances have become as customary as forged antiquities; looted Egyptian sculptures in the Frederick Schultz case (Archaeological Institute of America, 2003), the Getty Kouros (True, 1993) (see fig. 9) and the looted Moche artifacts (see fig. 10) from Sipan, Peru (Yates, 2013) are only a few examples to affirm these forgeries. It is wise to remain sceptical, unless an old collection attribution can be verified. Many artifacts that are on the market are said to belong to old collections, but actually they find their origin in illegal excavations or looted sites. On the other hand, there are indeed collections which come to the market. The really interesting question is how you know which is which.

Fig. 9 Kouros, Getty Museum. Source:

https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/1093 0/unknown-maker-kouros-greek-about-530-bc-or- modern-forgery/

Fig. 10 Moche Artifacts. Source:



The second myth Elia addresses is the Myth of the Chance Find. He explains that since old collections cannot be the answer to all the antiquities that circulate on the market, collectors often point to accidental or chance finds. This myth operates on several levels because it renounces the causal connection between looting and collecting; it puts the responsibility with the source countries; and it glorifies those collectors who ‘save’

endangered art. A large proportion of excavated material will be found during a normal economic or agricultural activity, the farmers or constructors probably won’t report this find to the authorities but sell it to a dealer, who in turn, will offer it ‘under the counter’ to a collector or he will smuggle the object out of the country of origin and sell it abroad (Elia, 2009, 246). Elia (2009, 247) suspects that the Myth of the Chance Find found its origin among antiquities dealers as a story to tell their clients. It provides an easy explanation for collectors who rely on the expertise of reputable dealers to protect them from shady and possibly illegal transactions. The Myth of Chance Find puts the blame bluntly on the source countries, who will confiscate the farmer’s land, treat the innocent finder as a thief, and in either case won’t offer a proper motivation for the finder to report the find. The myth also validates the collecting enterprise, because of the troublesome situation in the source country, the finder may be seduced to destroy the site or the objects. In these cases, the collector becomes the saviour by placing a value on chance finds that leads to the rescue of the finds from oblivion (Elia, 2009, 247). Chance finds do occur but there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that looting is an organized and systematic criminal activity on a vast scale in many source countries. “There are simply too many fresh antiquities surfacing on the market to be accounted for by accidental finds. Nor do chance finds account for the fact that the popularity of specific types of antiquities peak at different times, such as Luristan Bronzes in the 1960s or South Italian red-figure pottery during the 1980s and 1990s” (Elia, 2009, 247).

The third myth is the Myth of the Reputable Dealer. This is another myth that offers a way for collectors to ensure that they are not participating in any illicit activity involving the acquisition of antiquities. The main worry is to avoid buying a work or a forgery that may have been taken from a private collection or a museum or may otherwise have an

ambiguous title that may be contested after purchase by a collector. In the experience of Elia (2009, 248) the expression ‘reputable dealer’ has led to a large amount of confusion because


reputable dealers, who do not (willingly) sell looted antiquities and bad dealers, those who do. While in fact, both legal and illicit aspects are linked in the antiquities market. This term of being a reputable dealer does not refer to someone who will not deal in cultural objects that have been illegally excavated or illegally removed from source countries. Objects that enter the market are in several cases not regarded as stolen but as illegally exported. This ethical position of being a reputable dealer, permits dealers to handle the looted antiquities as long as they convince themselves that they were not stolen in a sense. Dealers draw the line when it comes to selling or buying objects illegally taken from public institutions such as museums or from protected archaeological sites, they regard these as stolen cultural

objects. But generally, they defy source country laws that try to protect antiquities buried in unregistered or unprotected, archaeological sites throughout the country. Nor are they in favour of the acknowledgement of the export laws of source countries that constrain the unauthorized removal of antiquities. Therefore, if collectors wish to avoid purchasing antiquities that may have been looted, they must not put their fate in the notion of the reputable dealer (Elia, 2009, 249).

The fourth myth is the Myth of the Collector as Guardian of the Past. This myth minimizes or ignores the loss of archaeological objects, sites and knowledge as a result from the looting that deliver antiquities into the hands of collectors. Many collectors of antiquities take pride in their passion for art and the care they give to their collections. Collecting is seen as a beneficial activity, and not only a passion because they make their collections available for members of the public and scholars. With the Myth of the Chance Find Elia (2009, 248) has shown that collectors are seen as the rescuers of objects that might

otherwise be lost or destroyed. The Myth of the Collector as Guardian of the Past reinforces this message by accentuating the role of collectors as custodians of ancient art. At the same time, the aesthetic value of the objects is privileged above all the other values. Shelby White and Leon Levy, two prominent collectors of Classical antiquities described their roles as collectors: “We know our objects have had many caretakers-for when you are a collector a caretaker is what you become. We know, too, that we are just links in a very long chain and that our treasure will someday have new homes in new places” (White & Levy, 1990). Shelby later elaborates: “As collectors, we believe we are preserving and expanding knowledge of the past… over the years, we have built a collection of interest to scholars as well as the general public” (White, 1998, 170). Collectors thus take pride in preserving treasures from


the past without thinking about the destruction that may have taken place to obtain those objects. For example, looters searching for Greek vases will dig through ancient graves, destroying all contextual and archaeological information that may educate us about the people who were buried there. And the loss is not just informational, looters also destroy or get rid of all the things that are not profitable such as organic materials, human remains, metal objects that require restauration, undecorated vessels. Sometimes it is a wonder that looted objects survive at all. Yet the dealers who end up with the objects have been hailed for ‘rescuing’ the objects (Elia, 2009, 250).

The fifth and last myth Elia explains in his article is the Myth of the Guilty Source Country. This last myth is out of the ordinary because it specifically addresses the existence of looting as a means of collecting antiquities. It contradicts in this sense the other myths because they neglect the phenomenon of looting, and it could be expected to have at least a disturbing effect on the acceptance of the other myths by collectors. The Myth of the Guilty Source Country allows the collectors and dealers, those who benefit from the looting, to shift the responsibility of looting to the victims of the looting. Even though this myth recognizes that looting does exist, it denies all causal ties between looting and collecting.

Source countries of course declare the right to protect the antiquities in the archaeological sites as their heritage. But advocates of the antiquities market blame source countries for having chauvinistic, retentionist policies that include legal bans on the export of antiquities.

According to this point of view, these confining policies efficiently create a black market in looted objects. Some dealers like James Ede, argue that restrictive laws stimulate looting and

“have the opposite effect to that which was intended. Adjustment to encourage the

legitimate trade would go a long way toward restricting the smuggling routes on which illicit trade depends” (Ede, 1998, 130). The reason why Elia (2009, 253) has identified the Myth of the Guilty Source Country as a myth in the first place is the fact, like all the other myths, that it offers a trustworthy story that discloses why looting exists without needing any

confirmation of accountability on the part of the collectors. This is also what makes this myth succeed as a function myth for the collecting community. It may be that the

authorization of certain laws issue in a greater enthusiasm on the part of some people to break those laws, but the myth still asks the basic questions: Why are people trying to obtain antiquities in the first place? The answer is evident- demand by collectors. Now, if source


heritage, the question becomes: “Why should collectors have the right to finance, no matter how indirectly, the looting of that heritage, especially when it would involve the destruction of the archaeological and cultural heritage in return for the preservation of some portion of the artistic heritage?” (Elia, 2009, 253).

The Myth of the Guilty Source Country collectors grants the collectors permission to avoid answering this question. But the claim that source country laws are the cause for looting is simply that, a claim. On the one hand, if source countries would open their markets, it is true that more antiquities would be able to leave the country legally, but on the other hand, that is like a bank robber telling a bank that if it would open its vaults, the robber would not have to steal from them. There is no evidence that a liberalized market would reduce the act of looting. Elia (2009, 254) gives three reasons to show that liberalizing the antiquities market would not in fact diminish looting. Firstly, no source country would allow for valuable antiquities to leave the country, and that is exactly the type of objects that major collections and museums request. So a market for high- end artefacts would always be there, and could only be satisfied by looting. Secondly, instead of decreasing the demand by opening up markets, it might actually increase the demand of antiquities and it might encourage new collectors to enter the field. But source countries do not have a limitless supply of material that can be exported abroad, thus a diminishing supply would lead eventually to the encouragement of looting. And thirdly, even if source countries would try to coordinate a more liberal flow of artefacts, there is still no reason to believe that looters would stop operating outside of the law in order to evade government fees and regulations (Elia, 2009, 254).

These five myths give us a closer look into how demand for antiquities and illegal practices in source countries are linked and how this is disguised by collecting individuals and institutes, and why antiquities might be disputed. Elia (2009, 255) has tried to explain how the advocates of the art market can resume with the denying of their basic accountability for stimulating the looting of archaeological sites. He has explored the notion that they have adopted a mythology that closes them off from the damaging reality of the antiquities market. This mythology creates a romanticized and comfortable world view that allows collectors and dealers to explain how antiquities surface (in their view mostly through

chance finds and recycled collections); how they are legitimately transferred to collectors (by reputable dealers); how those collectors act (as noble stewards of the past); and how, if by


chance some antiquities emerge through looting, then the blame is on the source countries (who should liberalize their laws). Elia (2009, 255) is confident that further mythographical studies of museum curators, private collectors and dealers who form the antiquities market would uncover additional values and beliefs that may be organized around mythical

narratives like the five myths he has described. In the future, there might be other developments like these five myths in the ideas about contested archaeological heritage.

Even though Elia’s research is from a decade ago, I think it is still accurate and topical for the current situation in the antiquities market. This paragraph is of value for this research because it shows that dealers and collectors started to come up with different excuses to still acquire and sell cultural objects even though their origin was possibly illicit according to the 1970 UNESCO convention. But we must keep in mind that these myths are not just excuses that are used by dealers and collectors to get away with their illegal business. The first and second myth for example, the myth of the old collection and the myth of the chance finds, are sometimes real. Objects can be found by chance or objects can belong to an old collection and it is possible for those objects to be kept in a museum. In my analysis I will use these myths to see if and how the link between the demand for antiquities and the illegal practices that accompany this and are disguised by institutes and collecting individuals are also used in the Netherlands and Belgium, and if so, in what way they have developed over time. I will analyse if a possible chronology can be discovered or if there are changes to be found behind the different causes for contested archaeological heritage.

2.2 Who owns culture?

Another topic about contested archaeological heritage that has developed since 1970 is the question “Who owns culture?” This question, or rather problem, covers the competing angles about the importance of “culture” in relation to ideas of “access” and “ownership”. Is

“culture” the “property” of a specific nation or people? Or is it representative of a “universal heritage” for all mankind? Is the value of “cultural property” perceptible outside of the cultural context of an object? Some would say that the true value of a cultural object cannot be achieved outside of its cultural context (Tsosi, 2009, 5). It could be argued that with archaeology, there is the problem that the cultural context no longer exists. Instead, there are modern nation states that claim to be heir of that context due to (sometimes


coincidental) geographic circumstances (Cuno, 2008, 2). Thus, saying that the true value of a cultural object cannot be achieved outside of its cultural context, is like saying that the true value of that cultural object lies with the modern nation that claims the geographic area where the object was found. And this modern nation often does not have the same cultural beliefs and ideas as the culture whose people made the object. The Crimean treasure can also be associated with this. Here the discussion is about whether the objects belong in Ukraine or in Russia, but both are modern nations. “Others argue that the value of an object is determined by removal of the object from its culture of origin and its ability to freely circulate to the highest bidder. Still others would claim that the “preservation” of an object is the key and that a culture that would allow the natural deterioration of such objects

necessarily fails to “value” them appropriately” (Tsosie, 2009, 5).

The question of who owns culture, brings us back to some aspects discussed in the first chapter. Authors such as Cuno (2008), are in favour of the mindset that culture is

representative of a “universal heritage” for all mankind. And he is more against the idea that cultural objects belong to a specific nation. Especially when that nation has unclear ties to the original culture. It is also interesting that this entire discussion of who owns culture has come down to a binary opposition: national versus universal. It could be questioned whether these are the only levels on which ownership can be claimed? The answer to this question is no; ownership can be claimed on an individual level, for example restitutions of art to families that were stolen during World War II. Also on a local level ownership of objects can be claimed, for example the Island of Santorini has demanded back frescoes that are in the National Museum in Athens. We could also ask this question for a regional and supra-

national level (Specific regions, European Union). But these possibilities of ownership are not explored because of the strength of the national-universal opposition.

In the next subchapter I will go more into detail about this question by giving recent examples that show how ideas about ownership of (archaeological) heritage has developed over the last decades.

2.3 Can museums really change?

On the 21st of February 2006, it seemed like a new era of understanding and cooperation had unfolded in the hotly contested international debate on cultural property. This because


the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (“the Met”) signed an agreement with the Italian Ministry of Culture to transfer back to Italy a group of 21 antiquities, including the controversial Euphronios krater (see fig. 11), in return for long-term loans of “equivalent beauty and importance,” (The Met Museum, 2006). The Italian state started to investigate the Met together with other American private collectors and art museums equipped with evidence that the antiquities in question had been looted from archaeological sites in its territory. Philippe de Montebello, the Met’s director, said in a statement that the return to Italy was “the appropriate solution to a complex problem, which redresses past

improprieties in the acquisitions process through a highly equitable arrangement” (The Met Museum, 2006). The pact also asserted the Met’s commitment “to the responsible

acquisition of archaeological materials and ancient art according to the principle that all collecting be done with the highest criteria of ethical and professional practice” (Elia, 2009, 239).

Although Italy and the Met were indulging in the ‘glow of mutual cooperation’, there were signs that possibly little would actually change. Mr. de Montebello sounded rather belligerent in an interview published hardly a week before he signed the accord, He claimed that “a resurgence of nationalism and misplaced patriotism” was behind the Italians’

attempt to recover antiquities from the Met (Mazur, 2006). “The world is changing,” he said,

Fig. 11 Euphronios krater. Source:

https://traffickingculture.org/encycloped ia/case-studies/euphronios-sarpedon- krater/



The current situation of Archaeological Heritage Management in the Netherlands Willems,

origin, and archival materials, both the university’s public records and the archives of academic institutions and. scholars and men of letters in

(Unlike Raman, SThM measures only the surface temperature, and its cali- bration is discussed in section S5.) Knowing the electrical input power, the total thermal resistance

A shared heritage is important as it signifies that South Africa is a geopolitical state created by Union, that all the people of South Africa are affected by Union as

The main task of the State Bureau was to document all archaeological sites and finds in the country and to inform the State Commis- sion.. The decree and the arrangements based on

1 The Monuments Council referred to in Section 3, subsection 1 and the five sections referred to in Section 5 of the Dutch Monument and Historic Buildings Act (Bulletin of Acts,

The role of archaeological predictive maps in the process of protection by means of spatial planning of development is particularly stressed.. KEY-WORDS: ardchaeological

One approach to this challenge is to emphasise the role or task ot' archaeology as a scientific discipline in the protection and management of archaeological heritage.. It is