Alexander Nagel


Contemporary Narratives on Ownership and Convenient Usages of the Provenance Yemen’s Past. A Perspective on Values and Archivesof South Arabian Heritag

Since 2010, the “Last of the Qataban” project aims to document the modern legacy of thousands of offerings made to ancestors in family tombs and mausolea in the Wadi Beihan in Yemenin the first centuries CE dispersed in art galleries and museums around the world. Initially, the initiative focused on investigating archives and object repositories, analyzing archaeological publications, museum displays, exhibition and auction house catalogs which archived the transfer of lavish objects made from precious alabaster, bronze, and gold in South Arabiasince the late nineteenth century. In more recent years, however, the project team began to document shifts in misusing new ‘saving heritage’ narratives which emerged in the aftermath on the destruction of museums and sites in Yemen. Not affiliated with any research institution, the “Last of the Qataban” project which comprises Yemeni researchers, investigative journalists, curatorsand scholars around the world allows us now to understand better the context and mechanics of the creation of new narratives of movement and the re-depositionof materials as well as the way of intangible spirits and the impacts the transfers will have on future historians. This presentation aims to introduce and contextualize preliminary resultsof the project, highlighting some unique stories related to the contemporary practice of documentation of South Arabia's past and the unlearning of a colonial archaeology in provenancere search. It will conclude with a best practice scenario focusing on the future of the legacy of Yemen in museums worldwide