Neil Brodie

Archaeologist and scholar is one of the world’s foremost experts on the illicit antiquities trade and looting.
Most antiquities are bought and sold without a documented find spot (provenience) or ownership history (provenance); trading histories thus become so complicated and so obscure that it is almost impossible to identify definitively any antiquities that have been stolen or illegally exported. By the time these “unprovenanced” antiquities enter the salesrooms and museums of Europe and North America, where they command veneration and high prices, the destructive and illegal circumstances of their initial acquisition have been long forgotten. But although the trade in antiquities flouts national and international laws, it does not end there. Unscientific digging aimed at recovering salable antiquities extirpates the stratigraphies and contexts of archaeological sites, destroying archaeological information and, ultimately, historical knowledge. When these antiquities are redeployed in public or private collections as “art,” shorn of their contextual relations, they are then forced to conform to Western conceptions of artistic production and consumption, with all the ideological and political baggage that such conceptions entail.


On the evening of Saturday, January 5, nearly a hundred people packed the Chicago Regency Hyatt’s Plaza Ballroom for the 2008 SAFE Beacon Awards. Among the crowd were professional archaeologists and scholars, students, and SAFE members, all eagerly awaiting the chance to see Dr. Neil Brodie and Dr. Donny George honored for their contributions to the field of cultural heritage.

SAFE had sold many dozens of tickets in the weeks and days leading up to the reception, but as the guests began to gather outside the ballroom, waiting for the event to start, there was a last minute surge in ticket sales, as many who had heard about the even through word-of-mouth arrived and waited patiently to see if there would still be room for them inside. Fortunately, SAFE was able to accommodate everyone who wished to come.

Inside, guests mingled, sipped wine, and nibbled on hors d’oeuvres. SAFE member and numismatist Nathan Elkins welcomed and thanked the guests for coming. After a few words about SAFE and its mission, Nathan introduced Dr. Neil Brodie, one of the two award winners who gave a short talk entitled “Academic Reception of Archaeological Manuscripts.” Afterwards, Dr. Brodie fielded questions from the audience, which turned into a lively debate amongst reception guests themselves!.

Dr. Brodie, an archaeologist whose expertise extends from ancient Britain to the Aegean Sea, was the former director of the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre (IARC) at the University of Cambridge. He is also the author of thirty-nine articles and the co-author or editor of six books. He is currently the Director of Cultural Heritage Research at Stanford University’s Archaeology Center, and one of the leading figures in bringing cultural heritage issues to the public eye.

Afterwards, Cindy introduced the distinguished Dr. Richard Leventhal of the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, who in turn gave an introduction to Dr. Brodie. Dr. Brodie then stepped up to receive his award certificate and say a few words of thanks.
Next, Cindy introduced the equally distinguished Dr. John Malcolm Russell of the Massachusetts College of Art. He provided the introduction to the night’s second award winner, Dr. Donny George. Dr. George, like Dr. Brodie, has devoted a large part of his scholarly career to raising awareness of the problems of looted antiquities. He had a long, notable career as an archaeologist in Iraq before being appointed Director-General of Research and Studies at the Iraq Museum in Baghdad in 2000. In 2003 he witnessed firsthand the catastrophic looting of the Museum, and has since become a voice for the effort to recapture the Museum’s stolen artifacts, and the restitution of cultural property in general. After the introduction, Dr. George came to the podium to receive his award.

Guests mingled for the remainder of the evening and took advantage of the chance to talk to the two award winners-and take a few photos with them as well.

Thanks to our sponsors who participated in our Souvenir Journal, and our guests, SAFE volunteers (in Chicago and those who worked behind-the-scene), presenters and award winners, the reception was a great success. SAFE is pleased to honor these two archaeologists, who have done so much to raise awareness of cultural heritage issues. We are also proud that we were able to not only present them with awards, but throw a great party on their behalf!

A round of thanks to all who attended-we hope to see you soon at the next SAFE event.

Thank you for a job well done, SAFE AIA Team Members:
Cynthia Bates, Blythe Bowman, Lilling Choo, Jessica Dietzler, Jessica Facciponti, Nathan Elkins, Keli Liu, Rachel Moland, Marina Papa-Sokal, Sarah Pickman, Genevieve Semple, Therese Rohrbeck, Rebecca Rushfield, Rob Wanner, David Yoon

—Sarah Pickman

Chicago was GREAT!!!Sam Paley, SAFE Member and Advisor


Saturday January 5, 2008
Plaza Ballroom B, Hyatt Regency Chicago 151 East Wacker Drive Chicago, llinois

2008 SAFE Beacon Awards souvenir journal

Download souvenir journal here and “like” SAFE Beacon Awards on Facebook.

We thank the following organizations and individuals for their participation in the Souvenir Journal: