June 15, 2021

Sipán and the Getty

I’ve received some really nice feedback on my interview on Stealing History with Jordan Harbinger, broadcast on his podcast in March. “Very interesting and enlightening,” someone wrote to me from Germany.

One listener wrote on Twitter that the interview reminded him of an exhibit on ancient Latin American metalworking at the Getty in late 2017 which, I confess, I did not know about. (I was living in Israel at the time.) Judging from photographs, it looks like the exhibit included the Sipán backflap — yes, the one seized by the FBI in a car trunk in Philadelphia in 1997 — and several other artifacts looted from the Sipán tombs of northern Peru and shuffled through the global illicit antiquities market. How intriguing. These items must have been loaned from the museum in Lambayeque, Peru, the Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipán, where all the artifacts looted by the Bernal brothers and apprehended by U.S. and Peruvian police are housed. The rest of that museum — and the museum’s reason for being — is devoted to the archaeologically excavated artifacts from Sipán, placing them in cultural context, and explaining how the archaeological process can expand our knowledge of the ancient past. And how looting destroys that knowledge.

Thanks to all for writing and posting. Keep engaged.