Herodotus Returns


Was Howard Carter a thief?
January 19, 2010, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Egypt, Howard Carter, Smuggling | Tags: , ,

As more and more ancient Egyptian objects in museums around the world are traced back to King Tutankhamun’s tomb, experts wonder if the tomb’s discoverer, Howard Carter, may have illegally smuggled these artifacts out of Egypt.

Carter obtained about 5,000 objects from the four burial chambers, including furniture, jars of perfume, flyswatters, and ostrich feathers — the whole place was a dream of jasper, lapis lazuli, and turquoise. He even discovered a ceremonial staff adorned with beetles’ wings.

The “unexpected treasures,” as Carter described them, suddenly brought to light an Egyptian king previously almost unknown — Tutankhamun, born approximately 1340 B.C., who ascended the throne as a child. A statue shows the boy king with chubby cheeks and a delicate face. Tutankhamun later married his older sister and conceived two children with her, both born prematurely. The fetuses were found in small but magnificent coffins.

The grandeur of the find rubbed off on its discoverer. Carter was awarded an honorary doctorate and US President Calvin Coolidge invited him to tea. Horst Beinlich, Egyptologist at W├╝rzburg University, calls him a “thoroughly honest man full of idealism.”

It appears, however, that this isn’t quite true. Documents show that the hero of the tombs cheated on many counts, manipulating photographs, forging documentation on the discovery and deceiving the Egyptian Antiquities Service.

The discoveries in that tomb set in motion a power struggle that has been only partially uncovered. Carter wanted to send as much of the treasure as possible to England and the United States. This plan quickly met with resistance. Egypt had been a British protectorate since 1914, but the administration of antiques lay in the hands of a particularly intractable Frenchman.

More on Howard Carter’s potential theft.

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Iraqi police seize stash of 39 Sumerian artifacts
January 5, 2010, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Smuggling | Tags: , ,

Iraqi police seize stash of 4,000-year-old statues before they are smuggled over the border.

Iraqi police on Tuesday seized a small cache of ancient statues and other artifacts in the south of the country that officials said were set to be smuggled out of the country and sold.

Iraq, home to world’s most ancient urban civilizations, has had its priceless heritage plundered and sold to collectors abroad in the chaotic years since the U.S.-led invasion.

The 39 artifacts were discovered stashed in a hole near a shrine outside the southern city of Nasiriyah, said a police official. They included statues and shards with writing on them dating back to the ancient Sumerian civilization, which is more than 4,000 years old. The official had previously said 29 artifacts had been discovered.

More on Iraqi stash.