Culture crime news 21–27 August 2017


Hot this week: Giving back Nazi-looted art (and encouraging others to do so)

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Why it’s so difficult to identify and recover stolen art
(22 August 2017; The Globe and Mail)
“Few police forces have the time or resources to devote to stolen art cases”


Egyptian antiquities ministry inspects Khufu’s boat after accident causes ‘mild’ damage to beam (Egypt)
(21 August 2017; Ahram Online)
Was being lifted by a Japanese team when a crane malfunctioned

Egyptian authorities foil attempt to smuggle Khedival-era antiquities to Saudi Arabia (Egypt, Saudi Arabia)
(23 August 2017; Ahram Online)
Smuggler was planning on sending the pieces to Saudi Arabia

Timbuktu’s ancient mausoleums protect city again (Mali)
(26 August 2017; African Independent)
Five years post destruction, restored

Theft of South African relics riles researchers (South Africa)
(22 August 2017; Nature)
Pieces that had been returned to Kruger taken from Kruger


Mexico creates new federal police division to protect cultural heritage (Mexico)
(27 August 2017; DW)
“New division of the Federal Police would recruit officers with knowledge of archaeology and art to tackle thefts and looting of cultural artifacts”

Argentina returns ancient artifacts to Peru (Peru, Argentina)
(26 August 2017; Andina)
39 pieces returned after 10 years of diplomatic efforts.

Stolen bust of Civil War general found under I-95 (USA)
(25 August 2017;
Union General. Stolen from the Smith Memorial Arch in West Fairmount Park.

Arrowheads and Coins Stolen (USA)
(25 August 2017; KSAL)
From a home, Native American pieces, coins, and swords


Cologne secures cathedral in light of Sagrada Familia terror plot (Germany, Spain)
(23 August 2017; DW)
“Our job is to protect sensitive spots – and the cathedral is a symbol of Cologne, known around the world.”

‘We should give back art looted by the Nazis’ (Germany)
(22 August 2017; BBC News)
Facing up to the “dark shadow” of their 30s and 40s activity

Follow our example and return Nazi-looted art, German bakery firm urges companies (Germany)
(23 August 2017; The Jewish Chronicle)
Dr Oetker is returning art and urging everyone else to do the same.

Six Men Charged with Illegal Diving for Antiquities in Mani (Greece)
(23 August 2017; Greek Reporter)
Accused of looting a Roman shipwreck at Limeni

Greece could use Brexit to recover ‘stolen’ Parthenon art (Greece, UK)
(26 August 2017; DW)
“If it can give back India, it can empty one room in London to return these items”; probably not.

Saving Italy’s earthquake art (Italy)
(24 August 2017; Wanted in Rome)
“Expertise is not lacking; the problem will be funding.”

400 Viking objects stolen in Norway museum heist (Norway)
(20 August 2017; The Express Tribune)
Were in a temporary location in the Bergen University museum ahead of transfer to somewhere more secure.

Sagrada Familia Among Sites Targeted by Barcelona Terrorists (Spain)
(23 August 2017; Hyperallergic)
Gaudí Cathedral among the three places that were meant to be targeted wth explosives

Conservators remove fungus and cobwebs from Gurlitt hoard (Switzerland, Germany)
(15 August 2017; The Art Newspaper)
Decades of being hidden away under questionable conditions.

Thieves steal ancient chest from church at Ringstead, near Hunstanton (UK)
(14 August 2017; Eastern Daily Press)
18th century piece taken from St Andrew’s Church at Ringstead, near Hunstanton

Man who made £30,000 faking Norman Cornish artwork told to repay £1 (UK)
(22 August 2017; The Guardian)
Due to a lack of assets.

Ancient coffin breaks as child put in it at Southend museum (UK)
(22 August 2017; BBC News)
Staff appear more shocked than I am about this. Any museum worker will tell you that parents instruct their kids to do things like this in museums.

Suspect in multi-million pound art heist at Bulmers magnates’ mansion has fled UK on ‘one-way ticket’, court hears (UK)
(24 August 2017; The Telegraph)
John Morris, of Enfield, London, has fled and didn’t appear in court

Eleven in court over Bulmers cider family art robbery (UK)
(24 August 2017; BBC News)
“A total of 15 paintings worth £1.7m, and £1m of jewellery were stolen.”

Russia and Ukraine’s battle over Crimean heritage heats up (Ukraine, Russia)
(25 August 2017; The Art Newspaper)
Dispute over Tauric Chersonese

South and East Asia

Chinese police arrest 22 cultural relic thieves (China)
(18 August 2017; GB Times)
Caught during video surveillance in Tengzhou, Shandong Province

Stealing Hindu Gods: A Madras High Court Judgment Shows The Way Out (India)
(18 August 2017; Swarajya Magazine)
Digitisation and recording as a way forward.

Ancient Idols Worth Crores Stolen From Shirgul Maharaj Temple In Shimla (India)
(19 August 2017; ChandigarhX)
Thieves were caught on CCTV

Himachal Pradesh police recover stolen idols worth several crores, arrest two Nepalese (India, Nepal)
(20 August 2017; The Times of India)
Stolen from from Killa Mandir Shirgul Maharaj temple in Nerwa town in Chopal area; police allege it is mostly Nepalis doing such thefts

India yet to receive 200 artefacts worth $100 million from US (India, USA)
(20 August 2017; Sunday Guardian Live)
Question is why. Inactivity on Indias side?

जैन मंदिर से 10 प्रतिमाएं चुरा ले गए, सबूत मिटाने सीसीटीवी कैमरे भी ले गए (Statue Stolen from Temple; India)
(22 August 2017; Dainik Bhaskar)
10 were taken and 7 were of the smaller variety

चोरों के निशाने पर मंदिर, चांदी का छत्र व मुकुट चोरी (Theft in the Temple; India)
(22 August 2017; Patrika)
A crown and cash was taken after the priest had locked the gate

Priceless artefacts kept in dismal condition at Jaipur police station (India)
(24 August 2017; Hindustan Times)
These are from the Vaman Ghiya case, so have been sitting around for years.

Gang of four held, three panchaloha idols recovered from them (India)
(19 August 2017; The Times of India)
Stolen from Shri Venugopal in Sampantharayanpettai near Nemili

Four persons arrested, stolen property recovered (India)
(19 August 2017; The Hindu)
Detected during a random vehicle stop, the men admitted to committing a number of crimes including idol theft.

Myanmar to Repair Earthquake-Hit Bagan by 2020 (Myanmar)
(22 August 2017; Irrawaddy)
Announced one year since the earthquake

The curious case of a missing relic casket (Pakistan)
(22 August 2017; Dawn)
Gandhara piece missing from the collection of Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum Museum at University of Peshawar

Returned royal seals open to public view (South Korea, USA)
(18 August 2017; Korea Times)
Returned from LACMA in the US, assumed to have been taken during the Korean War.

West and Central Asia

Rescuing Assyrian Manuscripts in Iraq (Iraq)
(20 August 2017; AINA)
Yousef Sakat, a young Iraqi priest, hid all the manuscripts as IS advanced

Hobby Lobby funds Israeli settlement archaeology (Palestine, Israel, USA)
(26 August 2017; Al Jazeera)
Controversial payments were made by the Museum of the Bible

Hex of the Idol: Steinhardt, Christie’s Fight Heritage Claim (Turkey, USA)
(18 August 2017; Bloomberg)
Steinhardt doesn’t deny that he took a risk buying the piece and then selling it on, implying that he knew it was illicit.

Police seize ancient tapestry in southern Turkey (Turkey)
(21 August 2017; Andalou Agency)
Unclear where it came from, but was found after a tip off and an observation of a failed sale.

Briton arrested in Turkey over coins he found while snorkelling (Turkey, UK)
(23 August 2017; The Guardian)
Hmm: “It’s his hobby. He’s definitely not a smuggler”

In Other News

Pagans demand return of church buildings ‘stolen’ 1,300 years ago (UK)
(27 August 2017; The Telegraph)
Request from The Odinist Fellowship received polite responses

New report faults controversial BLM agent for mishandling evidence (USA)
(25 August 2017; Salt Lake Tribune)
Stolen “Moqui marbles” hematite formations