News and Notes


banner image: Moundville, Alabama


AIA Talk: Cahokia & the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex

Dr. John E. Kelly of Washington University in St. Louis is an expert on eastern North American archaeology, particularly Mississippian culture as evidenced at the extensive site of Cahokia, just outside of St. Louis. Cahokia, a World Heritage UNESCO Site, possesses approximately 120 mounds, including Monk’s Mound, the largest mound in North America. It is also the location of the intriguing “Woodhenge,” a monument that marked the solstices and equinoxes much like Stonehenge in England. Dr. Kelly has been working frequently at Cahokia and other nearby Mississippian sites since 1969. He is interested in the role of ritual and kinship as manifested in the imagery and dispersal of various artifacts and techniques. This manifestation of Mississippian culture is referred to as the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC).

March 30
"Cahokia's Mound 34 and the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex" Chan Auditorium 7:30 PM


AIA TALK 10 March: The United States vs. Art Thieves: Tales from the FBI's Real Indiana Jones

Robert K. Wittman joined the FBI as a Special Agent in 1988 and was until a few months ago assigned to the Philadelphia Field Division. As a result of specialized training in art, antiques, jewelry and gem identification, he served as the FBI’s investigative expert in this field worldwide. He has been responsible for the recovery of more than $225 million worth of stolen art and cultural property and has been instrumental in the prosecution and conviction of numerous individuals involved in these crimes. Because of this unique experience, SA Wittman was the Senior Investigator of the FBI’s rapid deployment national Art Crime Team (ACT), working under cover in a variety of roles.

SA Wittman’s investigation of a theft at the Pennsbury Manor, the historical home of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, resulted in the first prosecution and convictions under the federal Theft of Major Artwork Statute (18 USC 668). Other highlights of his most recent recoveries include one of the original 14 copies of the Bill of Rights, which is valued at $30 million. The original had been sent to North Carolina for ratification in 1789 and was later stolen by a Union soldier during the Civil War. Wittman led an international undercover operation that netted $50 million worth of paintings stolen from a private estate in Madrid, including two paintings by Goya. He was involved in another undercover operation responsible for the recovery of Rembrandt’s “Self-Portrait” which was stolen from the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm and valued at $36 million. SA Wittman recovered three of five Norman Rockwell paintings stolen from a private gallery in Minneapolis from a farmhouse in Brazil. Also in South America, he led the operation to return a 2,000 year-old golden Pre-Columbian piece of body armor known as a “Backflap,” created by the ancient Moche people and looted from the Royal Tomb of the Lord of Sipan in Peru. For his efforts, the President of Peru awarded Wittman the “Peruvian Order of Merit for Distinguished Service.” In 2004, the Smithsonian Institution presented SA Wittman the “Robert Burke Memorial Award for Excellence in Cultural Property Protection” at the National Conference on Cultural Property Protection in Washington, D.C.

He has given presentations at the American Association of Museums (AAM) Annual Conference; National Conference on Cultural Property Protection at the Smithsonian Institution; the International Conference on Museum Security (ICOMS) in Basel, Switzerland; the J. Paul Getty Museum; Philadelphia Museum of Art; the San Diego Museum of Art; the Princeton Art Museum; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Cincinnati Art Museum; the Museum of Fine Art, Boston; the Minneapolis Institute of Art and many others.

March 10
"US vs. Art Thieves: Tales from the FBI's Real Indiana Jones"
Chan Auditorium
7:30 PM