Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : The High-Tech Art Lab Hidden Underneath Paris

A bronze statue is tested with the center particle accelerator. JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP
A bronze statue is tested with the center particle accelerator. JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP
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The High-Tech Art Lab Hidden Underneath Paris

A bronze statue is tested with the center particle accelerator. JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP
A bronze statue is tested with the center particle accelerator. JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP

It looks like the lair of a Bond villain: behind armored doors, buried underground below the Louvre in Paris, lies one of the most high-tech art labs in the world.
Across three floors and nearly 6,000 square meters, the Centre for Research and Restoration of Museums of France (C2RMF) includes its own particle accelerator called AGLAE, and is bustling with radiologists, chemists, geologists, metallurgists, archaeologists and engineers, said AFP.

The 150-strong team examines around 1,000 artworks per year, discovering precisely which materials and methods went into making them, their origin and age, and how the years have altered them.
Their analyses inform restoration teams within the center, at the Louvre, Versailles and beyond.
Many great artworks have passed through the lab since its creation in 1999, including the Mona Lisa, the stained-glass windows of Notre-Dame Cathedral or Napoleon's sabre.
Like 'CSI'
When AFP was granted a rare visit recently, an 11th century bronze sculpture of the Hindu god Vishnu had recently arrived from Cambodia ahead of exhibitions in France and the United States next year.
A masterpiece of Khmer art, the "Vishnu of Western Mebon" was found at Angkor Wat in 1936, a rare reclining depiction of the Hindu god that would have measured some six meters when it was complete.
Behind thick, lead doors, a team of 10 specialists was carrying out X-rays and 3D scanning on the statue.
Certain parts would then be tested with techniques such as X-ray fluorescence and spectrometry that bombard it with gamma rays and electrons to discover its detailed chemical and molecular composition.
"We're a bit like NASA, each with our own skills, or 'CSI: Miami', the scientific police," said team leader David Bourgarit, an archaeo-metallurgical research engineer.
"Our crime scenes are archaeological discoveries. We try to understand who made them, how and why, like a police investigation," he added.
He pointed to little white dots around the eyebrows of the statue that he said were another metal, "denser than copper", which will require further analysis to identify.
The team also wants to identify the clay used to make the initial mould for the statue, traces of which are still inside.
That should allow them to pinpoint exactly where it was made by comparing it to earth samples.
Some fragments may also pass through AGLAE (the French acronym for the Grand Louvre Accelerator of Elemental Analysis), installed in the 1990s and the only one in the world to work exclusively on artworks.
In a room packed with machinery, the straight-line accelerator gives off a powerful roar as it creates and blasts particles at artworks and artifacts.
It allows the scientists to ascertain the amounts and combinations of elements in the objects, adding another layer of analysis for dating and verifying their authenticity.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Cyprus Displays Jewelry, Early Christian Icons and Bronze Age Antiquities Once Looted From Island

A presidential security officer stands behind antiquities repatriated from Germany and put on display at the Archeological museum, in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
A presidential security officer stands behind antiquities repatriated from Germany and put on display at the Archeological museum, in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
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Cyprus Displays Jewelry, Early Christian Icons and Bronze Age Antiquities Once Looted From Island

A presidential security officer stands behind antiquities repatriated from Germany and put on display at the Archeological museum, in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
A presidential security officer stands behind antiquities repatriated from Germany and put on display at the Archeological museum, in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Cyprus on Monday put on display artifacts — some of them thousands of years old — that were returned after a Turkish art dealer looted them from the ethnically divided island nation decades ago.
Aydin Dikmen took the artifacts from the country's breakaway north in the years after Cyprus’ split in 1974, when Turkiye invaded following a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece. The antiquities were kept in Germany after authorities there seized them in 1997, and protracted legal battles secured their repatriation in three batches, the last one this year.
Addressing the unveiling ceremony at Cyprus' archaeological museum, President Nikos Christodoulides said the destruction of a country’s cultural heritage as evidenced in recent conflicts becomes a “deliberate campaign of cultural and religious cleansing that aims to eliminate identity.”
Among the 60 most recently returned artifacts put on display include jewelry from the Chalcolithic Period between 3500-1500 B.C. and Bronze Age bird-shaped idols.
Antiquities that Dikmen also looted but were returned years ago include 1,500-year-old mosaics of Saints Luke, Mark, Matthew and James. They are among the few examples of early Christian works to survive the Iconoclastic period in the 8th and 9th centuries when most such works were destroyed.
Cyprus' authorities and the country's Orthodox Church for decades have been hunting for the island’s looted antiquities and centuries-old relics from as many as 500 churches in open auctions and on the black market.
The museum's antiquities curator, Eftychia Zachariou, told the ceremony that Cyprus in recent years has benefited from a shift in thinking among authorities in many countries who now opt to repatriate antiquities of dubious provenance.