How to Successfully Fight the Illicit Trade in Stolen Art and Antiquities in Asia? Remove an Antiquated English Law from Hong Kong’s Legal System

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via Antiquities Coalition, December 2018: Prof. Steven Gallagher is the other co-convener on the session about Heritage Management Law and Policy in this year’s SPAFACON. Full policy paper in the link below.

The looting of art and antiquities from Asia is a problem exacerbated by continued demand. This is especially true in China, home to one of the greatest concentrations of millionaires worldwide, where a rapidly growing, newly wealthy class has entered the Asian art and antiquities market, escalating demand in an already thriving sector. Many Asian states that have lost and are continuing to lose cultural patrimony to looting and trafficking have introduced strict laws to combat the removal and unlawful export of art and antiquities from their jurisdiction. Transit and market states, too, have now implemented legal and regulatory frameworks, often based on international law, to deter citizens from dealing in looted art and antiquities or buyers from purchasing such goods when there is any doubt as to their provenance.

However, one of the world’s main markets for Asian art and antiquities, as well as a convenient and much-used transit hub, is a notable exception in having almost no laws intended to prevent this illicit trade: Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s legal and regulatory framework offers little protection for looted art and antiquities, and it retains one obsolete rule of law from its time as a British colony that may not only encourage buyers to purchase looted or stolen works, but also embolden those trying to construct false provenance to pass them through Hong Kong. This law is the rule of market overt, often referred to as a “thieves’ charter,” provided in Hong Kong’s Sale of Goods Ordinance. According to market overt, if someone purchases goods from a shop or market where they are openly on display and are of a type usually sold in such a shop or market, then the buyer acquires good title to the goods so long as they have bought them in good faith. This means that a buyer of looted art or antiquities from a shop usually selling art or antiquities in Hong Kong may resist any attempt by the losing party to recover their lost heritage, and may sell the pieces on to others who will also be safe from any action for recovery.`

Hong Kong has a reputation as one of the world’s leading financial and commercial centers, trusted because of rigorous regulation of its efficient financial and banking services, and confidence in its common law system. It is now also considered one of the world’s foremost Asian art and antiquities markets; however, the retention of an archaic and anachronistic principle of English medieval market law is baffling, especially when this principle has been abolished in the United Kingdom to prevent the flourishing of a “thief’s paradise.”

This policy brief explains some of the problems Asia faces with regard to looting of art and antiquities and loss of cultural heritage, and how Hong Kong’s legal and regulatory framework does little to prevent Hong Kong from being used as a market and transit state for illicitly obtained cultural patrimony. The brief recommends the simple repeal of section 24 of the Sale of Goods Ordinance to abolish the market overt rule in Hong Kong, as well as standardization of import and export laws between Hong Kong and China, strengthened law enforcement of antiquity-related crimes, and the inclusion of the art market in anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing provisions.

Source: How to Successfully Fight the Illicit Trade in Stolen Art and Antiquities in Asia? Remove an Antiquated English Law from Hong Kong’s Legal System – Think Tank

Asia Pacific Conference on Human Evolution

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Happening next year from 25-27 June 2019 in Brisbane, Australia.

Participants will include active researchers in palaeoanthropology, biological anthropology, genomics and palaeogenomics, primatology, as well as all disciplines engaged in understanding the environmental and site-specific context of human evolution across Asia and Australasia, including taphonomy, geochronology, palaeoecology, and geoarchaeology. This conference will foster international collaborations between researchers actively engaged in scientific analyses and exploration in Asia and the Pacific, and

Source: Asia Pacific Conference on Human Evolution

Management of large-scale rock art areas Survey

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Researchers at Griffith University are conducting a survey about rock art landscape management – help them out through the link below:

This research is part of an Australian Research Council (ARC) funded program called ‘Australian rock art history, conservation and Indigenous well-being’ at Griffith University. The overall aim of the project is to ensure that rock art landscapes are better conserved, appreciated and understood for the benefit of local communities and future generations.

This survey has been designed by Dr. Sally K. May and Prof. Paul S.C. Taçon in order to better understand national and international trends in the management of large-scale rock art landscapes. The information will be collated for a report and publications on this topic.

For this study, we broadly define a large-scale rock art area as one in which more than 10 individual rock art sites are found. While the definition of a separate ‘site’ is different internationally, for simplicity we would define it here as a place with rock art clearly separated from other places (by distance or geology). The size of the actual area is not our major concern, rather it is the number of individual sites within that landscape that you are involved in helping to care for. If you are unsure please feel free to contact us for clarification.

Source: Management of large-scale rock art areas Survey

Late Middle Pleistocene Levallois stone-tool technology in southwest China

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Hu et al, 2018. Nature

via Nature, 19 November 2018:

Hu et al, 2018. Nature

Hu et al, 2018. Nature

Levallois approaches are one of the best known variants of prepared-core technologies, and are an important hallmark of stone technologies developed around 300,000 years ago in Africa and west Eurasia1,2. Existing archaeological evidence suggests that the stone technology of east Asian hominins lacked a Levallois component during the late Middle Pleistocene epoch and it is not until the Late Pleistocene (around 40,000–30,000 years ago) that this technology spread into east Asia in association with a dispersal of modern humans. Here we present evidence of Levallois technology from the lithic assemblage of the Guanyindong Cave site in southwest China, dated to approximately 170,000–80,000 years ago. To our knowledge, this is the earliest evidence of Levallois technology in east Asia. Our findings thus challenge the existing model of the origin and spread of Levallois technologies in east Asia and its links to a Late Pleistocene dispersal of modern humans.

Source: Late Middle Pleistocene Levallois stone-tool technology in southwest China | Nature

How did the first humans migrate into Australia?

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via various sources including ANU Media, the Guardian and the Journal of Human Evolution: A new paper in the Journal of Human Evolution models the “least-cost pathways” humans would have taken through Island Southeast Asia in order to reach Australia, offering a predictive insight into areas of high archaeological potential.

Least-cost pathway models indicate northern human dispersal from Sunda to Sahul
Kealy et al., https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2018.10.003

Archaeological records from Australia provide the earliest, indirect evidence for maritime crossings by early modern humans, as the islands to the north-west of the continent (Wallacea) have never been connected to the mainland. Suggested in 1977 by Joseph B. Birdsell, the two main routes from Sunda (mainland Southeast Asia) to Sahul (Australia-New Guinea), still in debate today, are a northern route through Sulawesi with a landing in New Guinea, or a southern route through Bali, Timor and thence landing in northern Australia. Here we construct least-cost pathway models of human dispersal from Sunda to Sahul at 65 ka and 70 ka by extending previous out-of-Africa least-cost models through the digitization of these routes. We recover overwhelming support for a northern route into Sahul, with a landing location on present-day Misool Island. Minimal support is also recovered for the southern route at 70 ka, with a possible crossing to Sahul from eastern Timor. Review of archaeological records on the Wallacean islands crossed by our northern route indicate a dearth of archaeological research in this region. Meanwhile, the comparatively better studied southern islands still lack any archaeological dates comparable to those known for initial occupation in Sunda and Sahul. Based on our model results we suggest Misool Island as the initial landing site for early modern humans on Sahul and recommend a future focus on archaeological fieldwork in the northern Wallacean islands.

See also:

[Lecture] Treasures of the Deep: Maritime Archaeology in Hong Kong, China and Asia-Pacific

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The Chinese University of Hong kong by e X p o s e / Shutterstock

Readers in Hong Kong may be interested in this talk by Bill Jeffery on maritime archaeology in Hong Kong and Asia-Pacific.

The Chinese University of Hong kong by e X p o s e / Shutterstock

The Chinese University of Hong kong by e X p o s e / Shutterstock

Treasures of the Deep: Maritime Archaeology in Hong Kong, China and Asia-Pacific (in English)
Prof. Bill Jeffery (Assistant Professor, University of Guam)
Date:16 Nov 2018
Time:4:00-6:00 pm
Venue: LT4 Esther Lee Building, Chung Chi College, CUHK

Maritime archaeology is a relatively new discipline in the anthropology field. As was the case in archaeology, maritime archaeology commenced with a fascination and collection of curios or antiquities and not always with a motivation to preserve and study the archaeological record for the benefit of the general public. Collectors and treasure hunters have taken their toll on terrestrial and underwater sites, recovering and collecting artefacts for selling or keeping as personal possessions. Sites such as Nanhai No.1 in China contain a wealth of information about trade in the 13th century, and other sites throughout China, Korea and parts of South East Asia well illustrate the trade and the types of ships that were used throughout the region, and further afield. The Hong Kong waters, located in a significant part of the maritime silk road, could potentially contain sites of great interest in China’s maritime activities. The recent find of a Song Dynasty anchor stock in Hong Kong waters is a tantalizing link in these activities and perhaps indicative of things to come. It reveals Hong Kong’s maritime cultural landscape and seascape is worthy of exploring in greater detail, where the more than 70,000 scuba divers could be of great assistance. This talk will discuss these issues and activities in addition to placing the region’s maritime archaeology into the world context, particularly in association with UNESCO and its Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.

Register here.

Sigiriya frescoes to be scanned and digitised

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via FT Online, 20 October 2018: The frescoes of the Sigiriya World Heritage site are to be scanned and digitised.

Sigiriya Frescoes. Source: FT Online, 20181020

Sigiriya Frescoes. Source: FT Online, 20181020

The news that the Sigiriya frescoes and graffiti are being copied using laser technology is indeed a welcome move. The frescoes dating back to the 5th century are accepted as the oldest examples of mediaeval paintings in Sri Lanka. The need to preserve them for posterity has been discussed on and off and finally it has been made possible due to modern technology.

Source: Preserving for posterity | FT Online

When Thailand and Australia were closer neighbours, tectonically speaking

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via The Conversation, 20181019

via the Conversation, 19 October 2018: The geological periods when parts of Thailand and Australia were part of the same land mass go very far back in time, even before the dinosaurs, but an interesting read about the ancient history of our rocks.

This was a time before the dinosaurs, when the first forests turned the land green and giant dragonflies tracked airways through the vegetation.

Our work suggests that some fictional time-travelling Phuket beach-lover could have walked to the Pilbara in Western Australia. A pre-Jurassic culture vulture in Ayutthaya could have trekked over an ancient Indonesian-like volcanic island chain, and some Khao Yai elephant-ancestor could have rampaged through the site of the Perth CBD.

Source: When Thailand and Australia were closer neighbours, tectonically speaking

[Talk] Writing as a Marker of Identity in Early South and Southeast Asia

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Readers in Singapore may be interested in this talk by Prof. Himanshu Prabha Ray at the National University of Singapore on 12 September.

‘DEFINING TRANSNATIONAL MARITIME CULTURAL HERITAGE: WRITING AS A MARKER OF IDENTITY IN EARLY SOUTH AND SOUTHEAST ASIA’
Speaker: Prof Himanshu Prabha Ray (Anneliese Maier Fellow, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich)
Date: Wednesday, 12 September 2018
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS8, Level 6, Conference Room (06-46)

Within the narrative of terrestrial histories of nation states, accounts of maritime cultural heritage often become an extension of land-based concerns. A paradigm shift to understanding the history of the sea destabilizes linear mapping of time and chronologies of political dynasties, empires and trading activity that helped sustain the quest for luxuries. This shift entails re-establishing the centrality of the sea and viewing it not only as a space permitting movement, but as a site of cultural encounters and shared experiences, as expressed through the medium of writing in a common script, i.e. the Brahmi script. The languages expressed were diverse and included Sanskrit, Prakrit, Tamil and Sinhala, as evident from inscriptions on pots recovered in South and Southeast Asia. In this presentation I revisit sites along the east coast of India and investigate maritime networks across Bay of Bengal as indicated by the presence of inscribed pottery recorded in archaeological investigations. An important marker of the interconnectedness of sites extending from lower Bengal to coastal Sri Lanka is the Rouletted Ware, first identified at the well-known site of Arikamedu on the Tamil coast and described by Mortimer Wheeler in 1946 as an indicator of Roman trade. In recent years, not only has Rouletted Ware been found in coastal Malaysia, Thailand, Java, Bali and Vietnam, but rigorous analysis of Tissamaharama in Sri Lanka has helped define its date from 2nd and 3rd century BCE to 1st century BCE. It is also evident that many Rouletted Ware pots were inscribed and continued in circulation for a longer period. Here I will primarily focus on patterns of use/distribution of inscribed pottery in an attempt to emphasise both temporal and spatial variations of cultural contacts across South and Southeast Asia and the extent to which writing was used as a marker of identity in maritime Asia in the centuries around the Common Era. The larger issue being addressed is the circulation of knowledge across the seas and the agency responsible for these circuits. Can these complexities be accommodated as Outstanding Universal Values that can underwrite transnational cultural routes to be nominated for World Heritage status?

Source: ‘Defining Transnational Maritime Cultural Heritage: Writing as a Marker of Identity in early South and Southeast Asia’ (Wednesday, 12 September 2018) – Southeast Asian Studies @ NUS