The international conference on
Cultural Heritage in Danger: Illicit excavations and trade
was taking place on December 11th
in Berlin. The conference was hosted by Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, the German Archaeological Institute and the German Association for Archeology and was supported by the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media. The conference hosted official personalities such as: Maria Böhmer, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, The German Minister of Culture, Monika Grütters, Damaty and Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty with about 400 political figure of ambassadors, aides, ministers, parliamentarians and heads of organizations and institutions concerned with cultural heritage as well as lawyers and legislators in the smuggling of antiquities in the world issues.
In her speech the Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office,
started by welcomed the participants and specially the represented from Egypt and Syria: the Egyptian Antiquities Minister Dr. Mamdouh al-Damaty and the DGAM General Director Dr. Maamoun Abdulkarim.
She commended the efforts undertaken by the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums for the protection of the Syrian museum collections and focused in her speech on the importance of cohesion and international cooperation to combat the scourge of illicit trafficking of archaeological property in countries that exposed the illegal excavation, particularly Syria, Iraq, Egypt and others.
She added that Syria has been for thousands of years the home of many great civilizations from the ancient kingdoms, Pre history and the empires from the Near East until the Islamic communities. In order to preserve this important cultural heritage we need to protect together the Syrian and Iraqi cultural heritage. She said that the six World Heritage sites in Syria had been placed in June 2013 by the World Heritage Committee on the World Heritage in Danger List, and pointed out that there is cooperation from the German Foreign Ministry to maintain the Syrian cultural heritage. For example, finance the project Syrian Heritage, which is carried out by the German Archaeological Institute and Museum of Islamic Art which, ensure digitize archives for the cultural heritage of Syria. She also added that they are committed to ensuring that the results of the project will contribute to the creation of a central register of Syrian heritage.
The German Minister of Culture, Monika Grütters, said during the conference that crises and conflicts often lead to the devastation of museums and archaeological sites and the trade of stolen objects. She explained that this “destroys the cultural heritage of all humanity.” Ms. Grütters added that Germany plans to tighten regulation of the trade in art and antiquities. Those who import antiquities into Germany should hold a valid export permit and clear legal limits would determine an object’s origin information..
The German Minister of Culture, Monika Grütters
, said during the conference that crises and conflicts often lead to the devastation of museums and archaeological sites and the trade of stolen objects. She explained that this “destroys the cultural heritage of all humanity.” Ms. Grütters added that Germany plans to tighten regulation of the trade in art and antiquities. Those who import antiquities into Germany should hold a valid export permit and clear legal limits would determine an object’s origin information.
Both Friederike Fless
, President of Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, and Hermann Parzinger
, President of Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, talked also in the welcome speeches.
discussed in his speech the extensive and severe damages that historical sites in Egypt have been recently facing due to illicit digging and unauthorized excavation activities, and the efforts done by the Egyptian government to protect the cultural heritage.
Dr Abdul Karim
praised the role of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums staff, who have continued their work to defend their cultural heritage against the gangs and extremists groups.
He demanded the international community to start action in providing supportive to the Syrian authorities and fight against smuggling, especially through the open borders with neighboring
countries, to control the art market and the illicit trade and to prevent the sale and purchase of Syrian artifacts.
He noted that this conference might be the ideal opportunity for the German government to better amend the laws relating to the fight against antiquities trafficking, as long as they are in this process, in order to give a perfect law model in the fight against smuggling of antiquities for the rest of the Member States, Europe and the world. He also blamed the failure of the international community in responding to DGAM appeal for the protection of the Syrian heritage, since the beginning of 2013, when they received reports about action of specialized mafia networks, smuggling antiquities to Syrian.
He concluded by adding that, the international community today did not move to fight against trafficking of Syrian cultural heritage, they are not providing direct aid to the Syria archaeological and cultural institution for the success of her plan, and this failure to prosecute future generations.
The final recommendations of the conference has been confirmed with regard to Syria and Iraq:
- The need for international support to the institutions in the relevant countries through the provision of training and education programs and financial support.
- Work to control the border in neighboring countries to prevent the smuggling of cultural property.
- Provide technical and substantive support to archaeological sites documentation in the relevant countries.
And the need to:
- Establish controls to prevent smuggling and illegal excavation and identify control mechanisms and effects of smuggled and sold mobilize gaps in German law to combat smuggling mechanisms.
- Training archaeology specialists to work in the customs sector.
In the closing speech, Mr. Herman Parzinger, Director General of Museums in Germany and Director of the Prussian Cultural Foundation (for Syria), emphasized the need for cooperation of neighboring countries in the prevention of trafficking in cultural property and adjust the Syrian border.