What We Are Reading Today: Who Owns Antiquity? 

Updated 16 September 2018

What We Are Reading Today: Who Owns Antiquity? 

  • James Cuno calls for measures to broaden rather than restrict international access to antiquities

BOOK AUTHOR: James Cuno

Whether antiquities should be returned to the countries where they were found is one of the most urgent and controversial issues in the art world today, and it has pitted museums, private collectors, and dealers against source countries, archaeologists, and academics.

Maintaining that the acquisition of undocumented antiquities by museums encourages the looting of archaeological sites, countries such as Italy, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, and China have claimed ancient artifacts as state property, called for their return from museums around the world, and passed laws against their future export. 

But in Who Owns Antiquity?, one of the world’s leading museum directors vigorously challenges this nationalistic position, arguing that it is damaging and often disingenuous. “Antiquities,” James Cuno argues, “are the cultural property of all humankind,” “evidence of the world’s ancient past and not that of a particular modern nation. They comprise antiquity, and antiquity knows no borders.”

Cuno argues that nationalistic retention and reclamation policies impede common access to this common heritage and encourage a dubious and dangerous politicization of antiquities — and of culture itself. Antiquities need to be protected from looting but also from nationalistic identity politics. To do this, Cuno calls for measures to broaden rather than restrict international access to antiquities. 

He advocates restoration of the system under which source countries would share newly discovered artifacts in exchange for archaeological help, and he argues that museums should again be allowed reasonable ways to acquire undocumented antiquities. Cuno explains how partage broadened access to our ancient heritage and helped create national museums in Cairo, Baghdad, and Kabul. The first extended defense of the side of museums in the struggle over antiquities, Who Owns Antiquity? is sure to be as important as it is controversial.


Nancy Ajram’s husband indicted over intruder’s death

Updated 25 November 2020

Nancy Ajram’s husband indicted over intruder’s death

DUBAI: A Lebanese judge has indicted Fadi El-Hachem, the husband of Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram, with the intentional killing of an intruder who broke into their Beirut property on Jan. 5.

Celebrity dentist El-Hachem was accused of shooting dead the masked intruder, Mohammed Hassan Al-Moussa, who broke into their home in the early hours of the morning. The dentist said the assailant was threatening his family, including his three daughters.

The case was referred to Mount Lebanon’s first investigative judge Nicolas Mansour, who on Tuesday indicted Al-Hachem with intentional killing in self-defense. If prosecuted, the sentence could be up to 20 years.

The issue has now been referred to the Mount Lebanon’s Indictment Division.

The case was referred to Mount Lebanon’s first investigative judge Nicolas Mansour, who on Tuesday indicted Al-Hachem with intentional killing in self-defense. If prosecuted, the sentence could be up to 20 years.

Initial CCTV footage from the celebrity couple’s home appeared to show what was believed to be an intruder carrying a gun in the villa. El-Hachem then appeared and chased the deceased, firing his gun as the intruder ran towards their daughter’s bedroom.

MTV Lebanon has since reported that the intruder was shot 16 times.

“Before anything, Fadi is a father and a husband. He has responsibilities. He is a human being... It was a normal reaction to the threat he experienced,” Ajram said in conversation with LBCI Lebanon News on Jan. 7.

During the interview, Ajram also opened up about how she hid in the bathroom when she realized there was an intruder in her home. 

“I heard Fadi telling him ‘whatever you want.’ When I heard this sentence, I knew the intruder was a robber and I ran to the bathroom with my phone.

“I called my father first because I was scared… I was shaking and I was in a state that I can’t describe to anyone. I called my father and told him ‘dad there is a thief in the house… do something now, Fadi and I and the children are home.” 

The singer also denied claims that the assailant was known to the family, stating “We do not know the intruder and he does not work with us.”