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March 4, 2011

The Art Loss Register's Chris Marinello Discusses Egypt's Antiquity Crisis and Steps Taken to Recover Missing Objects

Statue of Ramsesses II in Aswan (Courtesy of Dr. Hawass)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, Editor

Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egypt's face of antiquities, reports regularly about the situation in Cairo and at the surrounding archaeological sites on his website where he recently listed the problems here on March 3.

The Art Loss Register has offered it's help in documenting and disseminating information through it's database.  As Christopher A. Marinello has spoken often with ARCA, we corresponded with him again.
ARCA blog: Mr. Marinello, what has the Art Loss Register been doing to help track the re-sale of recently looted items from Egypt? 
Mr. Marinello: Unfortunately, given the temporal nature of these events, I cannot be too specific. The Art Loss Register is registering any items reported to it as lost or stolen. We will enter these items in the Database and they will become part of our searching process. If we locate any of these items being offered for sale in the marketplace, we will immediately notify law enforcment and the registrant. 
ARCA blog: Has Egypt taken the ALR's offer to list missing items on the database for free? 
Mr. Marinello: We have had a number of institutions and individuals contact us already. In my view, we need to get the message out to those who are currently charged with securing Egypt's cultural heritage and I thank you for providing this forum which most certainly will aid in that effort. In prior years, everything would have gone through Zahi Hawass. Until a successor is named, I am afraid that there will be a gap in reporting thefts to us. 
ARCA blog: If ALR does recover items, would it return the objects to Egypt? And who at this point would safeguard those objects inside Egypt today? 
Mr. Marinello: The ALR would return any recovered item through official Egyptian government channels. As for specifics, I think that situation is still developing as this text is being written.

ARCA blog: What do you think will happen in Egypt about the security of museums and archaeological sites in Egypt with the resignation of Dr. Zawai Hawass? 
Mr. Marinello: I believe that the Egyptian government will eventually appoint a successor to Dr. Hawass or replace the man with a team of experts to handle the tasks of his Ministry. Right now it is the local police and members of the Egyptian army that are attempting to secure cultural sites. Let's face it, this is a major upheaval with potentially catastrophic consequences. Organizations working to protect Cultural Heritage worldwide should band together and develop a plan to assist the Egyptians during this time. Trade organizations as well as International Customs and Border Agents need to be especially vigilant.