Bio: Salam Al Kuntar is a Lecturer Assistant Professor of Archaeology at Rutgers’s Department of Classics. University. She worked at the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) in Syria in a number of capacities from 1996-2012. She has extensive museum and archaeological fieldwork experience. Since 2012, she has been active in the field of cultural heritage preservation. Salam is a National Geographic explorer, a consulting scholar at the Penn Museum and the chair of SIMAT (Syrians for Heritage), a non-profit association for heritage preservation based in Berlin.
Abstract: The complex issue of whether cultural artifacts in Western museums taken during the colonialist periods should remain or be returned to their place of origin continues to be a heated debate. Is it appropriate to apply today’s legal and ethical standards to the practices of artifact removal in the past? And if so, where do we draw a line? The 1970 UNESCO convention, which draws a line, has not been satisfactory to southern nations. In my presentation, I talk about artifacts taken from the Middle East and North Africa during the colonist era and discuss the issue of repatriation. I will also talk about the looting of artifacts from museums and archaeological sites during recent conflict and its relation to the illicit trafficking of antiquities to Western markets and new markets elsewhere.