Italian Mission hosts exhibition at the UN featuring the work of the Institute for Digital Archaeology

Italian Mission hosts exhibition at the UN featuring the work of the Institute for Digital Archaeology

A United Nations exhibit is open until December 1 that dramatizes the world body’s efforts to promote cultural heritage preservation. The Spirit in the Stone: The Indelible Face of Cultural Heritage is organized by the Italian Permanent Mission and features work done in the Syrian city of Palmyra. It coincides with the Italian presidency of the UN Security Council and it part of their ongoing efforts to promote cultural heritage preservation around the world.

Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi of Italy welcomed guests to the opening of the exhibit. It features the work of the Institute for Digital Archaeology of Oxford, England. IDA Founder and Executive Director Roger Michel told assemble diplomats and guests about their work, including their recreation of the Triumphal Arch of Palmyra that seeks to bring back to life this centerpiece of the Syrian city, destroyed by Daesh extremists. Michel aid that over one billion people have been seen the recreation through media exposure in the IDA’s effort to promote public understanding of cultural heritage preservation. London, New York, Dubai and Florence have hosted the Arch and earlier this year Director of Technology Alexy Karenowska and the IDA received the University of Oxford’s Vice Chancellor’s and Early Career Research Awards for work on the project.

Photograph of the recreation of the Triumphal Arch of Palmyra in Arona, Italy
Photograph of the recreation of the Triumphal Arch of Palmyra in Arona, Italy

A photograph of the Triumphal Arch of Palmyra on display in Arona, Italy is included in the exhibit, along with explanatory panels and another recreation, the Statue of Allat from the Temple of Allat in Palmyra. It showcases IDA efforts to repair and reconstruct this Palmyrene masterpiece. The statue is a Roman copy of a Greek original, dated from 50-150 CE. Alat is a pre-Islamic goddess, the equivalent of Ishtar in Mesopotamia, Atargatis in Syria, and Athena in Greece, according to exhibition materials. The Dubai Future Foundation supports the IDA’s work and the exhibit.

The exhibit is open to the public until December 1, reinforcing the message of the importance of cultural heritage preservation to the halls of the United Nations and its diplomats and visitors.

Getting Dirty with Sam Hardy

Sam Hardy is a specialist in the trade in illicit antiquities and the destruction of community and cultural property. You can follow him at @conflictantiq




If you could recommend one thing to better protect heritage, what would it be?

Effort? Compare cultural property protectors in Italy, Germany and France, and especially Turkey and Lebanon, not to mention Syria and Iraq, with some of their peers and you can see the difference that is made by genuine commitment to effective regulation and effective policing.

What is the one world heritage site that you think everyone should see in their lifetime?

I would have recommended the recently-listed Cultural Landscape of Diyarbakir Fortress and Hevsel Gardens, but it has since been devastated by the war between the Turkish Armed Forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The Archaeological Site of Ani is a city that was ruined by natural disasters and human-made disasters, as kingdoms and empires fought over it until it disintegrated. Even its ruins have been destroyed or plundered. Yet it is still a beautiful, poignant site. In what could be a metaphor for such places, Kars Museum Director Necmettin Alp described an excavated carving of a basilisk: the basilisk brings “bad luck to all who touch it”, but “peace and abundance… as long as it is untouched”. Although it is only tentatively listed, the Cultural Landscape of Mardin is a quietly beautiful medieval hillside town of carved stone architecture. It is somewhere that embodies the memory of genocide, yet where civilized society persists in the struggle for peaceful, shared community life.

What is one piece of advice can you give the next generation who seek to follow in your footsteps?

Find a day job! Cultural heritage work is precarious. Heritage protection work is even more precarious. But look at what Vijay Kumar has achieved from “outside”.

What was your first big break in this field?

Disastrous PhD fieldwork. Desperately scrabbling around for something, anything to do, I found evidence of conflict antiquities trafficking and the politics of policing and I haven’t stopped since.

What s the last book you’ve read—that doesn’t have to do with work?

Postcapitalism by Paul Mason – something to savour page by page, as you’re burning it to keep warm in the post-apocalypse.

What something that few people know about you?

 I do say cheerful things sometimes.

Most Antiquities Sold Online Are Fake or Illegal

Smithsonian Magazine


Most Antiquities Sold Online Are Fake or Illegal

Social media and ISIS have combined to flood the web with thousands of questionable artifacts

Roman Coin Hoard
(Wikimedia Commons)

If you’re looking for a nice bust of a pharaoh for the patio or some Roman coins to fill out your collection, consider carefully who you choose to do business with. Georgi Kantchev at The Wall Street Journal reports that buying antiquities online is a risky proposition, with the majority of items for sale either counterfeits or illegally looted from archeological sites.

While fakes and looted artifacts have been a problem on the internet for a long time, two recent factors have combined to increase the problem. First, the proliferation of social media and retail platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, eBay, Amazon, WhatsApp and many others has made it simple for looters to directly solicit potential buyers, often sending messages to members of antiquities groups on Facebook and other sites. Second, ISIS has systematically looted the archaeological sites it has taken over in the last half decade, producing an almost unlimited stream of antiquities that it sells directly over social media. The combination has flooded the internet with questionable antiquities.

Neil Brodie, senior research fellow in Endangered Archaeology at the University of Oxford, tells Kantchev that at any given time, there are at least 100,000 antiquities valued at $10 million or more for sale on the internet. Up to 80 percent of those items are estimated to be either looted or fake.

“Social media democratized the art market, but it also democratized who can be victimized by the art market,” Colette Loll, founder of Art Fraud Insights, a company that investigates art fraud and runs prevention initiatives, tells Julia Halperin at artnet News.

Loll says that the illegal sellers have become increasingly sophisticated, even offering works via Snapchat so the evidence of their looting automatically disappears.

In a policy paper for the Antiquities Coalition released in July, Brodie writes that the boom in the online antiquities trade has been a disaster for the field. “This means that minor archaeological sites or cultural institutions, which previously may not have been worth looting and thus left intact by criminals, can now be viewed in a more lucrative light and targeted accordingly,” he writes. “The resultant trade in small, portable, and easy to conceal antiquities is less likely to make headlines than that in major works of ancient art, but it is more difficult to police and arguably more destructive to the historical record.”

While the online platforms and police are attempting to shut down the illegal sales, be on the lookout for objects with telltale signs of looting—like uncleaned coins or an artifact with unclear provenance (the object’s trail of ownership history).

Alberto Rodao Martin, an officer who has run antiquities stings for Spain’s Civil Guard, gives perspective on how radically the field of safeguarding antiquities has changed in recent years. “Not long ago, our job involved watching looters with sniper binoculars in the bushes,” he tells Kantchev. “Now we’re looking at online ads.”

PDF of article here.

AC Think Tank Policy Brief Furthers Dialogue On Internet Antiquities

This month, in a major investigation for the Wall Street Journal, award-winning reporter Georgi Kantchev exposed how industrial-scale looting in the MENA region by Daesh (ISIS) has increased the sale of stolen antiquities to unsuspecting buyers online. Citing research by Dr. Neil Brodie, the article estimated that every day there are about 100,000 antiquities for sale on the internet, valued at over $10 million. Still more troubling, up to 80% of these objects have no legal provenance, and are most likely looted or fake.

Kantchev’s piece has prompted increased discussion on the dangers surrounding the online antiquities market. Experts note that fakes and looted artifacts have been a problem on the internet for a long time. However, there has been a sharp increase in the availability of these objects due to the increased popularity of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, eBay, Amazon, and WhatsApp. These platforms have made it easier for looters and traffickers to directly contact potential buyers—cutting out the middlemen.

What can be done about this growing problem? The Antiquities Coalition Think Tank tackled that question earlier this year in a policy brief by Dr. Brodie, which has now been featured by and Smithsonian magazine. Quoting Dr. Brodie’s paper, these outlets warned that the online antiquities trade has been a disaster for the field of archaeology, but there are ways to fight back. Dr. Brodie’s policy brief offers practical solutions to help better protect good faith consumers from purchasing looted or fake antiquities, while also protecting online businesses like eBay from unknowingly facilitating criminal behavior. It considers some possible cooperative responses aimed at educating consumers and introducing workable regulation, drawing upon recent successes in Germany, as well as criminological thinking about what constitutes effective regulation.

The Antiquities Coalition Think Tank, launched in 2016, partners with leaders in archaeology, business, law, security, and technology to identify key policy challenges, conduct high quality research by leading experts and make practical recommendations on how these challenges can be met. You can find Dr. Brodie’s brief — and others by leaders in the field—here.

Announcement: The British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme

Call for applications

The Endangered Archives Programme at the British Library is now accepting grant applications for the next round of funding. Detailed information on the timetable, criteria, eligibility and application procedures is available on the Programme’s website. The deadline for receipt of preliminary grant applications is 17 November 2017.

 Since it was established thirteen years ago, the Programme has so far funded over 325 projects in 90 countries worldwide, with grants totalling over £9 million. The Programme is funded by Arcadia, in pursuit of one of its charitable aims to preserve endangered cultural heritage. The aim of the Programme is to contribute to the preservation of archival material worldwide that is in danger of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration. The endangered archival material will normally be located in countries where resources and opportunities to preserve such material are lacking or limited.

The Programme’s objectives are achieved principally by awarding grants to applicants to locate relevant endangered archival collections, where possible to arrange their transfer to a suitable local archival home, and to deposit digital copies with local institutions and the British Library. The digital collections received by the British Library are made available on the Programme’s website for all to access. We currently have material from 198 projects online; six and a half million images and 25,000 sound recordings. Pilot projects are particularly welcomed, to investigate the survival of archival collections on a particular subject, in a discrete region, or in a specific format, and the feasibility of their recovery.

To be considered for funding under the Programme, the archival material should relate to a ‘pre-modern’ period of a society’s history. There is no prescriptive definition of this, but it may typically mean, for instance, any period before industrialisation. The relevant time period will therefore vary according to the society.

For the purposes of the Programme, the term ‘archival material’ is interpreted widely to include rare printed books, newspapers and periodicals, audio and audio-visual materials, photographs and manuscripts.

The Programme is keen to enhance local capabilities to manage and preserve archival collections in the future and it is essential that all projects include local archival partners in the country where the project is based. Professional training for local staff is one of the criteria for grant application assessment, whether it is in the area of archival collection management or technical training in digitisation. At the end of the project, equipment funded through the Programme remains with the local archival partner for future use.

The Programme is administered by the British Library and applications are considered in an annual competition by an international panel of historians and archivists.

For further details of application procedures and documentation as well as EAP projects and collections, please visit the Programme’s website:



The Vast Majority of Antiquities Sold Online Are Probably Looted or Fake, Report Says

The Vast Majority of Antiquities Sold Online Are Probably Looted or Fake, Report Says

Illicit antiquities are now available on Snapchat.

Antiquities Sold Online
Artefacts looted from Baghdad museum after the US-led invasion of 2003 are displayed during a press conference held by JordanIian Tourism and Antiquities Minister Maha Khatib in Amman on June 22, 2008 to announce the handover of around 2,466 artefacts to Iraq. (AWAD AWAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Planning to buy an ancient coin on eBay? Perhaps it would be wise to reconsider. Up to 80 percent of the antiquities for sale online are likely looted or fake, according to new research.

The Wall Street Journal has conducted a thorough investigation into the surge in illicit antiquities bought and sold online. Neil Brodie, a senior research fellow in Endangered Archaeology at the University of Oxford, estimates that 80 percent of the 100,000 antiquities available online at any given moment have no recorded provenance—which means they are probably looted or fake. These objects have a combined total asking price of more than $10 million, he says.

The explosion of fake and looted antiquities is the result of two combustible factors. First, ISIS has conducted unprecedented looting across the Middle East in recent years, bringing a wave of illicit objects into the marketplace. Second, novice collectors now have unprecedented access to un-vetted material thanks to the rapid growth of outlets like Facebook, WhatsApp, eBay, and Amazon.

“Social media democratized the art market, but it also democratized who can be victimized by the art market,” Colette Loll, the founder of the firm Art Fraud Insights, tells artnet News.

The WSJ spoke to an amateur collector from Worcestershire, England, who said he was offered a stone pharaoh’s head for $29,000 by a man from Yemen over Facebook messenger. Stephanie Mulder, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, told the newspaper that she, too, received an unsolicited Facebook message with pictures of gold coins and an ancient tomb. (She suspects she was targeted because she is a member of antiquities groups on Facebook.)

Ironically, dealers of fake or stolen art seem to have adapted to the digital revolution more quickly than many legitimate art galleries. Some possibly illicit works have even popped up on Snapchat, Loll tells artnet News. “It disappears, so you can hide the evidence,” she notes.

So far, the flood shows no signs of slowing down. The potent combination of new potential buyers, enterprising sellers, and an unregulated marketplace makes it “financially viable to trade in low-value and potentially high-volume material,” Brodie writes in a policy brief published by the Antiquities Coalition last month. As a result, sites that criminals might previously have considered unworthy of their time and effort “can now be viewed in a more lucrative light.”

While the European Commission and US officials have been monitoring the problem, a solution has largely eluded law enforcement, which is overwhelmed by the prospect of pursuing every suspicious listing. (eBay alone sells five collectibles per second, according to Brodie’s paper.) Loll likens the pursuit of stolen objects to a game of Whac-A-Mole: As soon eBay removes a listing, it might pop up on Amazon.

Nevertheless, experts say the situation is not utterly hopeless. Brodie suggests websites like eBay set an example by posting warnings more prominently and uniformly across the site. (A spokesperson for eBay did not return artnet News’s request for comment, but the Wall Street Journal notes that the website, like most others, has explicit policies prohibiting the sale of stolen objects. It has also reportedly agreed to give up the names and contacts of suspicious sellers to customs officials in countries where it operates.)

For her part, Loll believes a lasting solution is more likely to come from the demand side. “It’s going to be up to auction houses and dealers to come together and educate consumers,” she says. She notes that the popularization of the label “blood diamond” did much to encourage conscientious consumption of precious stones, and believes the same kind of reform is possible in the art industry.

But in order for that to happen, buyers must want to change their own behavior. “In my experience with art fraud in general, it’s not Joe Nobody who gets taken the most,” Loll says. “It’s someone with enough knowledge to be really interested in getting a unique find at a good price.”

PDF of article here.

Gods For Sale: Misplaced Priorities And Mercantilism In The Antiquities Bill 2017

Anuraag Saxena and J Sai Deepak – Oct 28, 2017, 7:08 pm

Recovered antique idols and artefacts thought to have been looted by an art dealer at his home in Chennnai in 2016. (ARUN SANKAR/AFP/Getty Images)

There are serious concerns about the proposed Antiquities Bill 2007.

These concerns are highlighted and specific recommendations offered to improve the draft Bill and make heritage preservation more effective.

The Ministry of Culture recently put out the Antiquities Bill, 2017, proposing, among other things, the selling and buying of heritage items and antiquities. Normally, this development wouldn’t have blipped on our radars. Hundreds of bills are tabled and thousands of papers are shuffled within Lutyens’ offices.

Three recent developments, however, have made this bill more critical than it seems on the surface:

1. Prime Minister Modi’s personal focus: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the first Indian head of state to demand (and personally receive) stolen antiquities from the United States of America, Canada, Germany, Australia and other nations. (See insert)

2. Judicial intervention: Very recently, the Madras High Court chided the Tamil Nadu state government for spectacularly failing to protect temple heritage.

3. Terror funding: United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has officially declared antiquities’ theft as a source for Islamic State terror funding. Interpol has set up the “Art Crimes Unit” to deal with this global concern.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott talk alongside a statue of the Dancing Shiva ahead of a meeting in New Delhi. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott talk alongside a statue of the Dancing Shiva ahead of a meeting in New Delhi. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)

Fundamental concerns

While recommendations are incorporated later on in the piece, it might be prudent to highlight three fundamental concerns about the Bill:

1. Mercantilism: Clearly, going by the global trends on this front, illicit antiquities trade is not merely about antiquities any more. Viewed in this light, the proposed Bill reflects a complete lack of understanding and appreciation of the issues involved. Worse, the Bill reflects and reinforces negative stereotypes of Indian mercantilism even with respect to issues that have a deep bearing on its (a) heritage, (b) history and (c) national security.

America’s official statement announcing their exit from UNESCO
America’s official statement announcing their exit from UNESCO

2. Ignoring geopolitical equations: Earlier this week, the US and Israel walked out of UNESCO. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “This is a brave and moral decision, because UNESCO has become a theater of the absurd. Instead of preserving history, it distorts it.” With rapid evolution in geopolitics on heritage, it is surprising that this bill takes an inward-looking approach. It might have been prudent to follow a participative approach, to involve the Ministry of External Affairs, to ensure that the Bill retains its relevance in the emerging world order.

3. Counter-productive objectives: The central thrust of the Bill appears to be to regulate (read facilitate) free trade in antiquities, as opposed to their protection and preservation. This is evident from a clear reading of the proposed Bill, in particular Sections 2, 3 and 6, among others. The Bill should have focused on protecting Indian heritage. Instead, it outlines how heritage should be sold. Why the government would want private parties to control antiquities (perhaps of national importance) is beyond comprehension. In fact, this necessitates a clear and defined distinction between public and private antiquities, which is absent in the Bill.

Colonel Matthew Bogdanos (USA) said, “We should be very clear on one thing, there is no doubt that antiquities trafficking is funding terrorism and has since 2005… Like it or not, because of the connection to terrorist activities, the vast majority of this information is classified.”

The United Nations Security Council, through resolution 2199, has codified this understanding in black and white. Interpol has set up the “Art Crimes Unit” to deal with this global concern.

Despite global agencies and governments clearly pointing to a nexus between illicit antiquities trade and terror funding, the proposed Bill does not seem to exude the seriousness expected of it in this regard. Terrorist organisations have historically flourished with revenues from counterfeit currency, the flesh trade and narcotics. Lately, terrorists have evolved to under-the-radar crimes such as dealing in illicit antiquities.

While the Indian state has gradually ramped up its ability to tackle traditional sources of terror funding, it is disappointing to note that its intent to tackle illicit antiquities trading is yet to achieve similar levels of seriousness, going by the tone and tenor of the Bill.

More than 50 per cent of the artifacts imported into USA were from India, explains the Antiquities Coalition report.
More than 50 per cent of the artifacts imported into USA were from India, explains the Antiquities Coalition report.

Of the $147 million worth arts/antiquities traded in 2016, $79 million worth came from India (compare that to Iraq, at only $2.5 million). Antiques Coalition suggests an example. With the gains from selling one Buddha sculpture (stolen from Mathura, illicitly sold for $1 million), terrorists could fund a dozen Paris-type attacks.

Make no mistake. Just because we have our heads in the sand doesn’t mean that terrorists do too. Collective ignorance and government apathy act like a pep-pill for them to push the pedal (on funding terror through heritage crimes). The last thing India needs is a new bill that whitewashes the elephant in the room.

Specific recommendations

Ideally, the Bill, if it is indeed meant to be an improvement over the existing Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972, must be designed to achieve the following (in addition to suggestions listed above):

1. Preserve our past, don’t peddle it. A bill such as this must be seen as an opportunity to consolidate public antiquities and to ensure their preservation and maintenance, apart from providing a formidable enforcement mechanism to prevent illicit trade in public antiquities.

Prayers being offered in the empty <i>garba-griha</i> after the <i>murti</i> has been stolen
Prayers being offered in the empty garba-griha after the murti has been stolen

2. Distinguish between ‘heritage’ and ‘antiquities’. It would also help to strike a distinction between antiquities and objects having heritage value. Most laypersons would agree that a heritage object is very different from an antique object. A grandfather clock is an antique object. The murti from a temple is a heritage object. In a country like India, where people and communities are rooted to their religious institutions, it is almost criminal to belittle a heritage object and treat it at par with a mere antique. This distinction is all the more important given that the illicit antiquities trade has been largely about heritage objects. Also, India has an opportunity to lead the global narrative on this issue by treating these two as separate categories and showcasing to the world that we, as a nation, respect the core offering India has given to the world – its heritage. To show the world that India will find ways to rightfully claim and protect what has been ours for ages.

3. Enable ASI to focus on its core competence: The Archaeological Society of India (ASI) must be tasked only with the preservation and maintenance of public antiquities. The ASI must not be overburdened with responsibilities which fall outside the scope of its core competence. Senior ASI officials have complained about lack of sufficient manpower and expertise, even till very recently. Unjustly overburdening the ASI has resulted in it losing 92 monuments (as per a CAG report from 2013)In yet another example, in June 2016, Prime Minister Modi was publicly offered 200 Indian antiquities by the US while on a state visit to Washington, DC. He graciously thanked the people of America for their gesture, and the speech was prime-time news. It has been over a year since then, and ASI has been able to bring back only a dozen (of the 200) back to India. It is a matter of international ridicule when bureaucrats are unable to follow instructions from the Prime Minister.

4. Create empowered agencies: Instead of burdening the ASI with retrieval of stolen antiquities, a job they have neither been trained for nor one they signed up to do, a dedicated ‘Heritage Crimes Unit’ must be established at par with the Central Bureau of Investigation or as an arm of the Bureau, which can liaise with various agencies (private and public) to effect restitution of stolen antiquities and extradition of the culprits from other jurisdictions. After all, solving an international heritage crime needs the cooperation of at least five agencies/parties:

  1. ASI, to render expert assistance in identifying and retrieving the stolen antiquities
  2. The Ministry of External Affairs
  3. The Indian consulate in a foreign country
  4. The concerned foreign government agency
  5. An agency to liaise with the current owner of the antiquity (private collector or museum)

The proposed Bill does not even mention, much less lay down a process, for cooperation between the aforementioned agencies. Not only is this a “rights and duties” issue, but is also one that will create gridlocks of bureaucratic finger-pointing. Therefore, a clear-cut rationalised process for solving international heritage crime is imperative if the proposed mechanism is to have any effect in tackling the trade in illicit antiquities. In this regard, India could draw from international protocols. Interestingly, even Pakistan has followed this approach. The KP Antiquities Act from Pakistan allows for establishing a heritage protection wing, improved training of their officers, enhanced authority and formidable penalties for criminals. If nothing else, India should have a stronger law than Pakistan.

5. Clarify operational definitions: The Bill must contain a definition of private antiquities and enumerate circumstances in which they may be acquired by the government at reasonable compensation with some say of the private owners in the maintenance and preservation of the antiquities. Also, the window for trading in private antiquities must be limited.

Citizens’ enthusiasm in the #BringOurGodsHome programme is evident on social media
Citizens’ enthusiasm in the #BringOurGodsHome programme is evident on social media

6. Public-Private Partnerships (PPP): It is heartening to see the current government’s focus on bringing in private enthusiasm to solve public issues through PPP models. However, why should the use of PPP models be limited to developmental and financial projects? Why not build PPP models in the social and cultural space as well? This is an emotional subject that is close to people’s hearts. This is also a subject where many privately run groups have (a) demonstrated success, and (b) established international relationships. For instance, agencies of the United States government have recognised the efforts of India Pride Project (IPP), a volunteer-run global effort to restore Indian heritage. This group of private citizens has worked towards effective tracking and restitution of Indian heritage objects. Surely the Indian government can involve such groups and institutionalise their participation by providing for PPP frameworks in the proposed Bill.

7. Involve experts with practical experience: If, as a country, we can invite private experts to run our ports, highways, schools and hospitals, then why not bring in private experts to save our heritage? Many nations have realised that isolated efforts of the government bear minuscule results, as compared to efforts that are inclusive in nature. Closer home, the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan is an example of participative leadership and community ownership. Unfortunately, the proposed Antiquities Bill proudly rejects this learning from India and abroad, thereby losing out on the goodwill and expertise of well-intentioned experts. The few experts they propose to involve are required to report to the very structures that have been unsuccessful themselves in the past.

While there are several aspects of the issue which need to be addressed in detail, the above are but a few high-level suggestions which relate to the broad framework of the Bill and the priorities it must concern itself with. If the proposed Bill is revamped bearing the above in mind, at least the compass would be recalibrated to go in the right direction.

For a country that is intent on emerging as a superpower and which has reaped the benefits of soft power to an extent, the proposed Bill as it stands, shockingly, does not reflect our appreciation of the uses of soft power. In fact, as incredible as it sounds, the proposed Bill makes the Act of 1972 look better! So much for all the vaunted talk of a “New India”.

The real question for us to answer as a nation is this: are we happy to sit by and watch silently as our heritage is destroyed and looted, especially when the solution to tackle the issue is not difficult to implement?

Importantly, do we have the moral authority to blame historical looters and colonizers when today, we don’t want to protect our own heritage?


In short, the proposed Bill looks like a hastily drawn up document with a singular primary objective – to allow for a free trade of antiquities.

To us, it represents the deep-rooted malaise within the Indian bureaucracy – of adding another feather to the cap of lost opportunities. Here was a chance to engage experts, use global benchmarks, replicate best practices, and create something that could have been the best-in-class. However, what we have is a half-thought, impractical “update” which makes its predecessor look better.

In short, we had the chance to proudly go to the world and claim our rightful place as one of the oldest civilisations, that ensures continuity through its heritage. We could have gone for Vishwaguru. Instead, we chose to stay two steps behind Pakistan.

This piece was first published on The Pioneer and has been republished here with permission.

PDF of Article here.