Author: changabula

Is it Right to Steal Another Nation's Heritage? [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2007-2-27 21:29:11 |Display all floors
Ancient Monuments

Perhaps the least known aspect of the colonial legacy is the early British attitude towards India's historic monuments and the extend of vandalism that took place. Instead, there is this pervasive myth of the Britisher as an unbiased "protector of the nation's historic legacy".

R.Nath in his 'History of Decorative Art in Mughal Architecture' records that scores of gardens, tombs and palaces that once adorned the suburbs of Sikandra at Agra were sold out or auctioned. "Relics of the glorious age of the Mughals were either destroyed or converted beyond recognition..". "Out of 270 beautiful monuments which existed at Agra alone, before its capture by Lake in 1803, hardly 40 have survived".

In the same vein, David Carroll (in 'Taj Mahal') observes: " The forts in Agra and Delhi were commandeered at the beginning of the nineteenth century and turned into military garrisons. Marble reliefs were torn down, gardens were trampled, and lines of ugly barracks, still standing today, were installed in their stead. In the Delhi fort, the Hall of Public Audience was made into an arsenal and the arches of the outer colonnades were bricked over or replaced with rectangular wooden windows."

The Mughal fort at Allahabad (one of Akbar's favorite) experienced a fate far worse. Virtually nothing of architectural significance is to be seen in the barracks that now make up the fort. The Deccan fort at Ahmednagar was also converted into barracks. Now, only its outer walls can hint at its former magnificence.

Shockingly, even the Taj Mahal was not spared. David Carroll reports: "..By the nineteenth century, its grounds were a favorite trysting place for young Englishmen and their ladies. Open-air balls were held on the marble terrace in front of the main door, and there, beneath Shah Jahan"s lotus dome, brass bands um-pah-pahed and lords and ladies danced the quadrille. The minarets became a popular site for suicide leaps, and the mosques on either side of the Taj were rented out as bungalows to honeymooners. The gardens of the Taj were especially popular for open-air frolics....."

"At an earlier date, when picnic parties were held in the garden of the Taj, related Lord Curzon, a governor general in the early twentieth century, "it was not an uncommon thing for the revellers to arm themselves with hammer and chisel, with which they wiled away the afternoon by chipping out fragments of agate and carnelian from the cenotaphs of the Emperor and his lamented Queen." The Taj became a place where one could drink in private, and its parks were often strewn with the figures of inebriated British soldiers..."

Lord William Bentinck, (governor general of Bengal 1828-33, and later first governor general of all India), went so far as to announce plans to demolish the best Mogul monuments in Agra and Delhi and remove their marble facades. These were to be shipped to London, where they would be broken up and sold to members of the British aristocracy. Several of Shahjahan's pavilions in the Red Fort at Delhi were indeed stripped to the brick, and the marble was shipped off to England (part of this shipment included pieces for King George IV himself). Plans to dismantle the Taj Mahal were in place, and wrecking machinery was moved into the garden grounds. Just as the demolition work was to begin, news from London indicated that the first auction had not been a success, and that all further sales were cancelled -- it would not be worth the money to tear down the Taj Mahal.

Thus the Taj Mahal was spared, and so too, was the reputation of the British as "Protectors of India's Historic Legacy" ! That innumerable other monuments were destroyed, or left to rack and ruin is a story that has yet to get beyond the specialists in the field.

  1. http://india_resource.tripod.com/colonial.html
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Just imagine: We would not be looking at this building if the sales had gone ahead:

[ Last edited by changabula at 2007-2-27 09:33 PM ]
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Post time 2007-2-27 23:27:29 |Display all floors
China calls for return of antiquities


Chinese experts say overseas museums have broken a UN pact

China has demanded the return of cultural relics housed in overseas museums - including antiquities plundered during war.

Experts said they were outraged that curators in Europe and the US had refused their request to send back lost artefacts.

It is estimated that about a million Chinese treasures are kept in more than 200 museums in 47 countries.

China's demands echo those of Greece in claiming the Elgin Marbles from Britain, and Nigeria's call for the return of the Benin bronzes from London and Berlin.

A terracotta soldier of China's First Emperor on display at the British Museum
A group has been set up in China to rescue cultural relics
Other countries that have claimed cultural losses include Egypt, India, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

China claims the offending museums have breached a pact by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Xinhua news agency said.

A 1970 UNESCO convention calls for the return of antiquities and works of art to their countries of origin.

But it does not apply to artefacts or objects taken to other countries before 1970.

Li Xueqin, director of the study centre on ancient culture under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "Culture is the spirit of a nation and relics are the purveyors of culture.

Benin bronze at the British Museum
Nigeria is calling for the Benin bronzes to be returned
"It's absolutely not ultra-nationalism and, on the contrary, we are just protecting our rights."< P>

Among the museums that refused China's request were the Louvre in Paris, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Prado in Madrid.

They claim that acquiring objects in past eras cannot be seen in the same light as the modern-day illegal trade in antiquities.

An civil group has been formed in China to raise money to retrieve and rescue cultural relics.

Founded in October, it is known as the Lost Cultural Relics Recovery Programme of the China Foundation for the Development of Folklore Culture.

Chinese scholar Wang Shixiang said the nation would unite with other countries facing similar difficulties.

"We shall join hands with them in retrieving lost artefacts through the law instead of money, since money can only stimulate illegal relics dealing," he said.

  1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/arts/2683151.stm
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Post time 2007-2-28 00:48:44 |Display all floors
Nigeria is calling for the Benin bronzes to be returned

The bronze plaques were seized by the British in 1897 when they took over the kingdom of Benin, now south-west Nigeria.

Most of the plaques sold by the museum have been bought by Nigeria, says a 1972 report which has only now been declassified.

The Nigerian Government has called several times for all the 700 bronze plaques to be returned.

  1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/arts/1896535.stm
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[ Last edited by changabula at 2007-2-28 12:54 AM ]
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Post time 2007-2-28 00:58:33 |Display all floors
Smuggled treasures 'being sold in UK'

Hundreds of ancient archaeological sites in Jordan are being plundered by looters looking for treasures, which are then being smuggled out of the country and sold for huge profits in Western cities, including London.

In the UK the arts market is worth an estimated &pound;4.5 billion per year - &pound;15 million of which is generated by antiquities from around the world.

...

The Jordanian Ambassador to London Timor Dagestani said it was almost impossible to prevent looting as there were more than 120,000 archaeological sites in the country.

Historical sites such as the town of Safi, which lies at the southern end of the Dead Sea, are being destroyed as looters break into 5000-year-old burial tombs looking for treasures.

Ancient artefacts can fetch huge profits in London

  1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1263662.stm
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[ Last edited by changabula at 2007-2-28 01:00 AM ]
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Post time 2007-2-28 01:04:52 |Display all floors
Plundering the treasures of a lost civilisation


Hidden deep in the Cambodian jungle lie the ruins of Angkor, one of the world's great monuments to one of the world's great forgotten civilisations.

In the 12th Century as many as a million people lived in this city of palaces and temples. At the time, London was but a town of 80,000.


  1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/660886.stm
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Thieves are ruthless about damage to treasures:

[ Last edited by changabula at 2007-2-28 01:07 AM ]
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Post time 2007-2-28 01:48:28 |Display all floors
http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=03/04/16/225210


Did U.S. Antiques Collectors Have Plans to Loot Iraq Themselves? International Outrage Continues at U.S. Failure to Protect the Famous National Museum Or Baghdad's National Library and Archives


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After international outrage at the failure of US troops to protect hospitals and the looting of the famous National Museum, Baghdad's National Library and Archives went up in flames yesterday. Almost all of the contents of the library are destroyed.

British war correspondent Robert Fisk reports the library was a priceless treasure of Ottoman historical documents, including the old royal archives of Iraq. He saw pages blowing in the wind of handwritten letters between the court of Sharif Hussein of Mecca, who started the Arab revolt against the Turks for Lawrence of Arabia, and the Ottoman rulers of Baghdad.

Fisk also saw the Koranic library burning nearby, which includes one of the oldest surviving copies of the Koran.

He rushed to the offices of the Marines' Civil Affairs Bureau. He gave the map location and said it would take only five minutes to drive there. Half an hour later, there wasn't an American at the scene.

Meanwhile, nine British archaeologists published a letter in the London Guardian yesterday, charging that private collectors are persuading the Pentagon to relax legislation that protects Iraq's heritage by prevention of sales abroad.

The Guardian reports Pentagon officials are denying accusations that the US government is succumbing to pressure from private collectors to allow plundered Iraqi treasures to be traded on the open market.

Months before the US-led invasion of Iraq, a coalition of wealthy American antiquities collectors met with defense and state department officials to discuss the fate of the country's ancient artifacts.

Among other things they urged the Bush Administration to weaken Iraq's strict antiquities laws make it easier for U.S. dealers to export Iraqi artifacts out of Iraq.

The main group behind this move was the recently formed, The American Council for Cultural Policy.

The group's treasurer William Pealstein described Iraq's laws as "retentionist."

But well established archaeological groups have strongly criticized these efforts.

The director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological said, "Iraqi antiquities legislation protects Iraq. The last thing one needs is some group of dealer-connected Americans interfering. Any change to those laws would be absolutely monstrous."

Andrew Lawler, the archaeology correspondent for Science Magazine.


War also a business for artifacts collectors.
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Post time 2007-2-28 02:53:47 |Display all floors
i think many artefacts were stolen by brits. but now they r in humidity and tempreature controlled boxes, otherwise they would dissappear.

its not just our past but our future as people. some re-patrioations have been made. but what would be the good to see the nationaslists proud and the artefact destroyed?
I think some greek artefacts were already repatriated?  If brits hadnt stolen artefacts, wouldn't they have been destroyed by chinese?

y this stupid hyper- nationalistic crap?

u totally misunderstand our history

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