Preserving a traffic cone: Glasgow's statue topping tradition is under threat.

11 November 2013

center What is heritage? Is it the physical remains of the past? The literal, tangible objects of art? The physical bits of culture? Or is it how we experience them, interact with them…how we incorporate them into our lives via actions, reactions and memory?

Today Scottish social media exploded with the news that the Glasgow City Council has logged planning permission to raise the plinth of an equestrian statue of Wellington in Royal Exchange Square. Why? To keep the populace from placing traffic cones on Wellington’s head.

floatright From what anyone can gather, for at least 30 years Glaswegians have, after a night of revels, crowned this Category-A listed monument to the hero of Waterloo. Wellington+cone has become one of the city’s most memorable sights: a stop for tourists and a point of shared cultural tradition among the city’s residents. The image is available on postcards, t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc. The act of placing the cone and, indeed, the presence of the cone the next day, is considered by many to be a display of the city’s sense of humor and the good-natured revelries of its inhabitants. People are proud of that reputation and they are proud of Wellington’s cone.

Why is the City Council trying to stop this practice?

A series of articles that came out recently cite a planning permission document offered by the City Council’s Landscape Design Manager. They claim that the act of cone-placing is dangerous, that the statue is harmed by the practice, and that cone removal costs the city 10,000 pounds a year. All three of these claims are questionable. By raising the plinth they make the practice (which will not stop) more dangerous. The statue seems to be taking the climbing just fine and, indeed, they could preserve it by allowing better access to the statue’s head via some sort of step. Finally, the claim that it costs so much to remove the cone is in direct contradiction to the City Council’s response to a Freedom of Information request that my friend Gavin Doig lodged on the topic last year.

So why, then, is the Council trying to ban statue cones? I believe that the key is in the wording of the council application. It calls the cone a “depressing image of Glasgow”, in contradiction to the popular idea of the cone being a representation of jollity. What they mean is that it is a low image of Glasgow: a drunk and silly Glasgow, an unclassy Glasgow, a Glasgow that takes the piss. They believe that the coned statue is base. I believe it demands respect.

I also believe they are entirely wrong. Some of the classiest locations are secure enough in their own culture and traditions to allow for statue silliness. Here are a couple that I thought up on the walk home.

Trinity College, Cambrige: Henry VIII with a table leg

floatleft Over the door of the Great Gate at Trinity College, one finds a small statue of Henry VIII, who consolidated three other colleges into Trinity (giving it that name despite the fact that my college was already called Trinity). As the founder, he is depicted over the gate. In one hand he holds a globe. In the other…a table leg. In days of yore he held a sword, but it was replaced by students at some point in the distant past. Did this, the fanciest of Cambridge Colleges, remove the table leg? No. It remains as a wonderful discussion piece. A warning against taking the whole Cambridge thing too seriously. Indeed, sometime in the 1980s the table leg was replaced with a bicycle pump. It was left in place for a while but the College eventually put the table leg back.

Harvard University: Statue destruction and low plinths

floatright In the middle of Harvard yard one cannot help but pass the seated statue of John Harvard. It is a favorite among tourists and residents for three reasons. First, as there was no portrait ever made of John Harvard, the statue has a generic face; it is a depiction of the idea of him, but not actually him. Second, the statue is labeled ‘Founder’, but Harvard was not the founder of the University, he was but a donor. Finally, people love that one is meant to rub his left shoe for luck and, perhaps, to get into Harvard. Nearly every tourist who passes through Boston rubs John Harvard’s shoe.

Nearly every resident of the city has given it a rub once or twice. As a result, the shoe is being slowly worn away. It is bright and shining, a different color than the rest of the metal. Eventually, it will break. It will happen. Yet there has been no attempt by Harvard to raise the plinth and stop the practice. To not allow people to rub John Harvard’s shoe would consign the statue to insignificance. To prevent this beloved modern tradition would be to stop the statue’s primary use to viewers.

So what gives, Glasgow?

Indeed, who among us has not found oneself with a cone upon their head (or equivalent) after a jubilant night out? I’ve had at least one cone that I can remember.

Harvard and Cambridge are fine with comical interaction with statuary, and are proud of the way that the public interacts with public culture. The creation of a popular tradition is something to commend and to celebrate. The placing of Wellington’s cone appeals to all of Glasgow: it is a practice that everyone relates to irregardless of race, religion, or social class. It is shared heritage and it makes the city and its inhabitants unique.

So why do you care, Donna?

Because I love heritage and culture. I think that far too often people in a position of power with a very set view of the world (and often a massive inferiority complex) make heritage decisions that the majority of the populace doesn’t relate to and, eventually, that everyone comes to regret. Usually this has to do with heritage and traditions that do not fit the classical, cultured ideal. It is expression that fancy folks find to be base. Sites and objects that classy people see as ugly and shameful.

floatright In early 2010 I got into a bit of a newspaper op-ed row in central New Zealand. A freezing plant was being torn down in a small town without any consultation with the citizenry. A petition was started by local school children to have some dialogue about this action: they felt the plant was part of their heritage and its chimney something that made up their identity. They wanted a chance to talk about preserving part of it. Because I think such things are important, it is worth noting that the local pols who wanted to remove the plant were White, and the people who wanted to discuss the matter were Maori. My letters were published in full as I waxed sentimental about the preservation (or not) of old mills in my native Columbus, Georgia. The responses I got from the pols were redacted due to foul language. There was an announcment that a meeting would take place to discuss the issue. The plant was then secretly pulled down in the night before the meeting.

The argument was that the plant was ugly so no one invested in the town. Of course now there is STILL no investment in the town and the people have lost a point of culture. Great job team.

I felt the same way about the removal of Checkpoint Charlie and the Palace of the Republic in Berlin. The removals happened fast, without discussion, because people in power didn’t like that heritage. It didn’t matter how many people locally and globally cared about those spots. They were in the way. They are gone, we can’t have them back.

I see the Wellington Cone as more of the same. The Council is making a decision that suits their own aesthetic ideals for the city: some poorly constructed idea of civility and decency that proves that Glasgow isn’t what everyone says it is.

However, Glasgow IS what everyone says it is. It is an open, fun, and friendly city. It is a welcoming place filled with people who are, to put it bluntly, not so up their own arse that they can’t see the humor in 30 years of a statue with a traffic cone on its head. I like living in the jolly Glasgow, the self-aware but not self-conscious Glasgow. I don’t want to live in an authorized, sanitized, cone-less Glasgow. How boring!

Petition to save the cone

Sign our petition to save the cone! Link:

Save Wellington's Cone: An appeal for the preservation of living tradition and public heritage

11 November 2013

I am sure that I will write a longer entry on the topic soon. For now, sign our petition to Save Wellington’s Cone!


We are appalled to read ( that the Glasgow City Council has plans to raise the plinth under the statue of Wellington, with the stated, and misguided, goal of discouraging people from placing a cone on his head.

The cone on Wellington’s head is an iconic part of Glasgow’s heritage, and means far more to the people of Glasgow and to visitors than Wellington himself ever has. Raising the statue will, in any case, only result in people injuring themselves attempting to put the cone on anyway: does anyone really think that a raised plinth will deter drunk Glaswegians?

The cone has been named by Lonely Planet as one of 10 Scottish inclusions in a list of the top 1000 sights in the world:

It has its own Wikipedia entry:,_Glasgow

Finally, the claimed £10,000 a year cost is contradicted by the Council’s own figures, as according to a recent FOI request this is done as part of routine maintenance:

We request that the Council not waste tens of thousands of pounds attempting to stop this proud Glaswegian tradition. It is a landmark, a point of culture and tradition, a place of note, a shared bit of heritage for the whole city.

Sign the petition:


Einstein and the Hopi

05 September 2013
Mr. and Mrs. Einstein at Hopi House, 1931
Earlier today I posted a photo on twitter that I came across. It shows Albert Einstein with a group of Hopi at Hopi House near the Grand Canyon in 1931. I’ve been thinking a lot about Einstein recently and, as you all well know, I think about Indigenous people (and Indigenousness) all day long. Something struck me about the photo but I didn’t delve into it until a commenter wrote back: “what he's wearing is out of context & disrespectful!”

I was surprised.

My initial reaction was something along the lines of some cloudy idea of staged lederhosen wearing in Einstein’s native Germany…or at the German restaurant I went to in Las Vegas. The costumes there are certainly out of context and the Germans with me found all the random paddling going on as odd, at the very least, perhaps disrespectful. However, as I launched in to that one I realised that something else was going on in the photo. I saw what attracted me to it.

Look at that mad scientist! He isn't people!

Einstein was a living, breathing human being who has been objectified and stylised beyond the threshold of reality. He, more than any other person living or dead, has been dehumanised[1] and reduced to a series of iconic images and traits that have come to represent the whole cultural idea of a scientist. He was a living museum exhibit. Someone that people stalked and gawked at. They took his photo when he didn’t want them too. They hung him on walls. They made dolls out of his image. People wear Einstein costumes at Halloween.

I think you can see where I am going with this.

The objectification of and commodification/co-option of the image of Native Americans is no joke but it is also nothing new. We know it happened and continues to happen. We know that is has been written in indelible ink across the American and global consciousness, usually for worse. We know that living, breathing human beings have to negotiate the expectations of that image every day of their lives[2].

To see these two sets of living icons superimposed upon each other is breathtaking. The assumption, of course, is that Einstein was on some sort of exoticism tourist trek and the Indigenous folks in the photo were being exploited. I fear that further reduces them to 2D images with no agency. I mean, think about it…they met EINSTEIN. To assume that either then or later they weren’t as delighted (or MORE delighted) to meet him as he was to throw on the feathers is not realistic and not fair. As I said on twitter, if I was that little girl holding his hand, the photo would be framed on my wall. It is WAY better than the blurry phone shots I took of Stephen Hawking at the mall [3].

This is really Einstein's brain. Controversial posting!
Taking it a step further if I dare (and I dare). Einstein was worried that when he died his grave would become some sort of insane pilgrimage spot. He didn’t like that idea nor the idea of any sort of public display of his remains so he asked to be cremated and scattered. Apparently, although it has been contested, he gave a particular doctor permission to extract his brain provided it was used only for science. His brain was extracted but, oddly, so were his eyeballs which were effectively stolen. His eyeballs apparently are in a safe deposit box and rumours swirl all the time that they will be put up for sale.

Long story short, his brain has gone through a lot. It was cut to bits, sent all around. Parts were carried across the country and the decades in a mason jar. Most controversially, slides of his brain material are now on display in a few major international museums, including the British Museum. This is the public museum display of human remains against the wishes of that human. This is the theft and possible sale of human remains, again, against the wishes of that human.

You must see where I am going with this.

So, yes, Einstein’s remaining bits have been treated with about as much respect as a Native American body. He was bought and sold, he was treated as a scientific specimen, he was stored improperly and disrespectfully, and he was put on museum display even though he didn’t want that. This is the end result of dehumanizing and icon creation: you are treated like a public object after your death.

Really, I think the photo is brilliant. Here is some more info on the context.

[1] Even those of us that are hip to that jive are not immune. Reading about Einstein recently, I was surprised to find he had children. Several of them. Who also had children. A pretty normal thing, to have kids, yet it is a human thing. Einstein had sex! He procreated! How can that be? I fought this in my mind but I am beyond pretending that it didn’t shock me.

[2] Remembering taking French exchange students to a mound site in Alabama back in 1998. Driving back they expressed disappointment that they had not met a Native America. “But your site guide was Native American” I said. They looked confused: “Where were his feathers?”.

[3] A person who is even more dehumanised because of his required use of technology and, thus, the clear symbols that are “him”. Seeing him on the street many times, I was not immune to this reduction of person to icon. He was never fully real and you better Belize I texted the heck out of everyone each time it happened.

Blessings of the "dark" Virgin of the lake OR Copacabana, where the cars wear lil' hats.

19 August 2013

Copacabana from Calvary Hill.
 Recent posts were grumbly and dissatisfied so I thought I would get back to (questionable) reality and focus on some heritage. I've spent the past two months in Bolivia and this weekend I was in Copacabana, a beautiful and ancient town on the edge of Lake Titicaca. All Copacabanas that you have heard of are its namesakes. I'm going to skip over the Inka ruins and the strange and pervasive crowned frog sculptures that I don't quite understand and focus on Virgins, earth goddesses, and cars with hats.

The Virgin of Copacabana

Offerings to the Virgin on Calvary Hill.
The Virgin of Copacabana is Bolivia's patron saint and it is no mistake that she is found at one of the most holy spots for the Inka (and, perhaps, pre-Inka). Copacabana is, roughly, where the Sun was born and thus was the spiritual base of power for the Inka nobility, the sons of the Sun.

As the story goes in the mid-1500s, there was a storm on Lake Titicaca and fishermen who prayed to the Virgin were saved. They built a shrine to her and an Inka fella (said to be a direct descendant of Inka nobility) named Tito Yupanqui sculpted an image of the Virgin out of clay.

Apparently the local Spanish priest thought the sculpture looked terrible and had it removed. Tito, not letting this setback get to him, moved to Potosí, learned to sculpt for real, and made a new Virgin of Copacabana that conformed to whatever it was that the Spanish priesthood wanted to see in a devotional object. The image is a miracle worker and a basilica sort of grew up around it. It never leaves the church.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that in April 2013 the Virgin of Copacabana was brazenly robbed of her gold and silver adornments. This is why I was in Copacabana in the first place.

Benediction de Movidades: Cars with Hats

Blessed car gear, note the hats!
Because the Virgin of Copacabana is so very holy to Bolivians and Peruvians, vehicles are brought to the church to be blessed by the Virgin (read: a priest with a bucket). The is an elaborate affair and the vehicles are decorated with flowers, garlands, bright coloured paper streamers...and hats. Shiny hats. More on the hats in a moments.

From my observation, important elements of this vehicle blessing are a) the setting off of firecrackers and b) the spraying of the car with beer and confetti. These are really rather important as they link the process with the idea of a cha'lla, a ritual blessing.

Houses and shops you might want.
A cha'lla is, directly or indirectly, a ceremony that involves the earth goddess Pachamama. It is, apparently, a ceremony common in August as the earth needs renewing during the Southern Hemisphere winter. The cha'lla elements I saw at Copacabana included pouring alcohol on the ground (Pachamama is a thirsty goddess); the placement of models of wants (cars, homes, animals) in holy places; the burning of aromatic herbs in braziers; and a whole lot of coca leaf divination. Many people were eating aptapis, a sort of picnic of potato varieties wrapped up in a blanket then spread out for everyone to dig in. Personally, I've only ever participated in aptapis after ceremonies that were openly Pacamama oriented.

Heck *I* want this sheep
 And this is the beauty and contradiction of Bolivia. The holiness of Copacabana extends backwards well beyond the Christian era and the cultural memory of pre-Conquest things exists in those elements of the ritual. The Virgin of Copacabana IS Pachamama, or at least takes her place, hard as it is to imagine the Virgin Mary sucking alcohol from the ground. The line of Aymara men in earflap hats, ready to tell the future with coca and bless pilgrims with grain alcohol, smoke, and ancient words as they ponder the stations of the cross on Copacabana's Calvary Hill doesn't challenge anyone's Catholicism. It is exactly right for that place.

This melding of times, this layering of place, is perhaps the thing that I love most about Bolivia.

But what about the hats? The cars with hats!

Frankly, the cars with hats are just satisfying. If you know one thing about Bolivia it is probably coca. If you know TWO things about Bolivia, they are probably coca and hats. From the precariously perched bowler-style hats perched on top of a Paceña chola, to the earflap deal that became hipster-hot in the west in recent years, Bolivia knows where it is at hat-wise. It makes sense: the country is both chilly and closer to the sun than most places. It is also rarely cloudy, just cold and bright. Ancient Andean art is totally hat-full. Hats are a necessity here and always have been.

Cars waiting to be blessed outside the Basilica

So, when the vehicles are being blessed they wear hats. By "they" I mean the men, the women, the children (babies often have lil ear flap hats with animal ears on the top: adorable) and the vehicles. The car hats are shiny party hats with BENEDICTION DE COPACABANA printed on them. Usually they are at the centre of the windshield but some are placed jauntily to one side. Why not?

High Crimes: Studying the Illicit Antiquities Trade in the Bolivian Andes (Day of Archaeology)

27 July 2013
Yesterday I participated in the Day of Archaeology. I and several hundred others like me wrote about what our life and job are like on one day. Here is an excerpt:

Although I am a trained field archaeologist, I now work for a criminology department. I study the looting of archaeological and historic sites and the transnational trade in illicit cultural property. That is what I am doing now, in La Paz, Bolivia, 3700 feet above sea level, thanks to a Fulbright grant and a Leverhulme fellowship.

I am part of the University of Glasgow and the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research’s Trafficking Culture project. My research group is approaching looting and antiquities trafficking from new angles to hopefully come up with interesting regulatory responses to this problem. Besides larger criminological and market analyses, our project is engaged in several regional case studies. That is where I fit in. I am looking into this phenomenon in Latin America and, right now, in Bolivia.

At the moment I am working on the looting of remote Conquest-era churches and the international market for stolen ecclesiastical paintings, sculpture and silver. The Andes are filled with rural churches: they were part of the evangelising mission of the Spanish Conquistadors. These churches are filled with spectacular and regionally-specific art. Most notable in Bolivia is silver work: for several hundred years the majority of the world’s silver came from Bolivia and Indigenous artists had a ready supply to make thousands of beautiful objects of devotion. Unfortunately there are collectors out there who are willing to buy stolen church art and, as supply meets demand, poor Bolivian communities are robbed of their heritage.

Ancient Andean fruit review 2: La fruta se disfruta

18 July 2013
As stated in my last entry, I am in the passionate throes of a love affair with Andean fruit that is depicted in ancient art. I spend my mornings roaming  the markets of La Paz looking for my beloved eats and feeding my respect for the Moche's ability to depict absolutely everything in either pottery or metal.

In this second review I have been a bit liberal with my use of the word "fruit". Let's just go with 'plant bits'.

Choclo (Zea mays)

Choclo is a type of corn/maize that is less sweet than the sweetcorn you are used to. It is characterised by a strip of farm-style cheese that grows within the husk, snuggled up to the engorged kernels. Yes, the con queso variety of choclo is a post-Conquest mestizoisation (possibility of llama cheese? anyone?), but like peanut butter and jelly, like butter and popcorn, like hamburgers and french fries, like vodka and cranberry, this confluence of the New and Old World is better than the sum of its parts. Alone the cheese is too salty. Alone the choclo is too plain. Together they are (and were) my lunch.

Choclo is best consumed on the side of the road in the high Andes during a break in a 36 hour bus ride. It should be boiled, cheesed, and re-husked. You should eat the choclo with no utensils, ideally while watching a herd of wild vicuña scamper across the inter-Andean plain. Vegetarians, this is your go-to snack while traveling: you are not likely to find other street food that is not meaty.

Yuca/Cassava/Manioc (Manihot esculenta)

Yuca (aka cassava or manioc) cultivation requires the least amount of effort of any cultivar that I have encountered. You grab on to a yuca stick, yank it out of the ground, chop the tubers off the bottom, break the stick into several pieces, shove the pieces into the ground, and more yuca grows. Nothing else needs to be done. The time trade-off is the post picking prep. If prepared wrong, there is enough cyanide in yuca to really mess you up. We are talking goitres that I imagine are shaped like yuca tubers. The more bitter the yuca variety, the more poisonous. To get around this, I have seen yuca grated and then squeezed and squeezed until nearly all liquid is gone. The other option is just to boil the heck out of it before, say, frying it.

And fry it you should! As a rule of thumb, yuca can be used anywhere that one would normally use a potato. Move over home-fries, yuca has hit breakfast. Yuca is more fibrous than a potato and has a distinct non-potato taste. I'd take yuca over potato in nearly all circumstances. For over a decade now I have traded whatever papaya (gross; see below) I have been given at breakfast for someone's yuca. I cannot fathom why someone would make that trade but their loss is my gain. Possible "vertigo, vomiting, and collapse" from the cyanogenic glucosides? Worth it.

Papaya (Carica papaya)

I hope that you readers appreciate my sacrifice. For over a decade the papaya and I have had issues, but I would feel like a cheater if I reviewed it from memory alone. So today, for you dear reader, I bought the smallest piece of papaya possible and forced myself to eat some of it.

Papayas have some things going for them. They are ubiquitous in Latin America and very affordable. I long to spend 20p on one massive papaya and eat it for days. They look amazing on the tree, growing in a big clump up and around the trunk. The flesh of the papaya is the nameless orange/red/pink/yellow colour of sunset. Their leaves, seeds, and perhaps even flesh have abortive and contraceptive qualities (papaya only education?). Also, Wikipedia says that papaya can be used as hair conditioner which makes me feel better about not eating any more of this unpleasant thing. I will just squish it on my head later tonight.

The papaya starts out good: you can scoop the flesh with a spoon and the initial taste, if weak, is at least fresh. Unfortunately the good doesn't last long: within a moment I am hit with a difficult to describe aftertaste. I want to say that it is fleshy or meaty, but it really isn't. Those are the adjectives that I came up with when I first tried papaya years ago. I can't shake them. I think that my main problem with papaya, besides the aftertaste, is that it is neither tart or sour like the best fruits (my kingdom for a mango, pineapple, tamarind, or sour sop), nor does it it have some unique flavour that alone justifies a presence in my fruit bowl (think avocado, coconut, or, if you have been blessed, cashew fruit as wine). Papayas aren't outright gross like chirimoya and I eat them when I must, but I won't be buying another one unless this one makes my hair look luscious.

*Note: the fruit depicted on the Moche nose ornament is the mysterious ulluchu. Some identify it as the wild papaya.

Ancient Andean fruit review 1: The tastiest heritage

16 July 2013
I love Bolivia. This country is the most intricate, fascinating, and surprising place. I am delighted to be back in La Paz for the next five weeks. 

My broader plans are unclear beyond "writing". However, I am taking this opportunity to sample or re-sample the glorious ancient fruits of South America. Beyond the appeal of exotic taste, I adore food depicted in pre-Conquest pottery. Thus I present to you the first batch of ancient Andean fruit, reviewed.

Pepino Dulce (Solanum muricatum)

Pepino dulces are pretty fruits. Their colours are pleasing and they feel tender in  my hands. They have a mild flavour with a strong hint of melon. Unfortunately I dislike most melons, but the pepino dulce has just enough cucumber flavour to be pleasant enough for consumption. The pepino dulce looks prettier than it tastes but that is enough for me.

Achojcha (Cyclanthera pedata)

These crunchy vegetables have strange seeds. They look like little black houses with chimneys on top. Or monster teeth. They are often stuffed and cooked like chilies rellinos, but, as I lack an oven, I can only offer comment their raw state. The flavour is mild and vegetal and, as such, they have become a staple in my nightly salad. They are not unique in that sense but I will keep buying them.

Pacay (Inga feuilleei)

I am still coming to terms with the pacay. How could I question a legume known as the "ice cream bean"? The problem is that the pacay treads close to the bubble gum flavour of the dastardly cherimoya (see below). Wikipedia compares the edible white matrix to cotton candy. I say cotton candy with a vegetal tinge. A new Bolivian friend mentioned the pecay last night while we talked of local fruit. I was proud to say that I knew the pod. He confessed a longing for the fruit of the fish-n-chips tree, flora endemic to the United Kingdom.

Tumbo (Passiflora tarminiana)

When I mentioned the tumbo last night to the previously mentioned native son he laughed. A Bolivian, he said, associates tumbo with singani cocktails. I have not yet availed myself to said drink but, from my experience with tumbo (and singani), the beverage will be charming. The gem-like, juice encrusted seeds of the tumbo resemble those of the passionfruit. The English name banana passionfruit is fitting in that respect. Tumbo are just my style: sour, tart, and versatile.  I will be putting those sparkling seeds on many a salad.

Chirimoya (Annona cherimola)


Incorrectly described by Mark Twain as "the most delicious fruit known to man", the chirimoya is a terrible beast. The flavour is akin to a sickening and sweet version of 'bubble gum'. I derive no pleasure from the fruit. In 2004 my friend convinced me to purchase chirimoya ice-cream at a supermarket in La Paz. He thought that the word "chirimoya" meant "happiness" in Spanish. Who could turn down happiness ice-cream? With one spoon-full all happiness disappeared. We tossed the whole tub.

The name comes from the Quechua word chirimuya, "cold seeds". Although this refers to the ability for the seeds to germinate at altitude, they are mean little things and poisonous if crushed. If injected, the extract of the bark of the chirimoya tree will cause paralysis. Chirimoyas are jerks

Guanábana (Annona muricata)

Unlike its evil cousin, the chirimoya, the guanábana or soursop goes beyond tasty and into the realm of the divine. It is both tangy sour like a pineapple (although less sour) and creamy like a banana. Soursop juice is smooth and thick like a milkshake. Pulped and frozen, soursop resembles ice cream and requires no other ingredients. If I could have no other fruit for the rest of my life, soursop would be a contender. 

"Plunder to Preservation" from the Oxford University Press (with chapter by me!)

07 June 2013
A chapter by me appears in a new book released this month by the Oxford University Press.
From Plunder to Preservation Britain and the Heritage of Empire, c.1800-1940, Edited by Astrid Swenson and Peter Mandler, ”takes a novel approach to this important and controversial subject by considering the impact of empire on the idea of ‘heritage’. It reveals a dazzling variety of attitudes on the part of the imperialists – from frank ‘plunder’ of American, Asian, African and Pacific peoples’ cultural artefacts and monuments to a growing appreciation of the need for ‘preservation’ of the world’s heritage in the places it originated.”
My chapter is titled “Publication as Preservation at a Remote Maya Site in the Early Twentieth Century”. It is about the early excavations of the remote Maya site of Holmul in advance of the massive looting of that site which may have produced such illicit antiquities as the November Collection. It explores the idea of preserving and protecting a site which is conceptually remote, even to scholars, and discusses my re-excavation of this early dig.
The books, which features a range of case-studies is available on the OUP website at

Two Flip Board Magazines

30 April 2013

I am experimenting with Flip Board Magazines. If you are a Flip Board user and want some slightly curated content on cultural property issues, art crime, and antiquities trafficking check out:

Anonymous Swiss Collector:

If you want archaeology and heritage misc. check out:

The Archaeologist: 

I am enjoying the smoothness of flip board. Let us see where it goes. If you are not familiar with it and have either an iphone or an android phone, check it out.

Walmart and the destruction of Mexican Heritage

26 April 2013
I have just written a guest post for Union Solidarity International about the construction of a Walmart at the World Heritage Site of Teotihuacán near Mexico City in 2004. The New York Times has recently exposed the significant amount of bribery and corruption that fuelled the permission to construct the store and several unions, including one that represents archaeologist and heritage workers in Mexico, are threatening action.

Please have a look:

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