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Old 03-27-2009, 09:58 AM   #1
so wah mu
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Lightbulb ...It belongs in a museum!

I always heard Indy say this. (or at least if i had A-B repeat on)

My concern is when it comes to the pilfering of grave goods and spoils of war, who has the right of ownership when it comes down to owning/exhibiting such items.

I'm thinking also that most Belloqs wouldn't (or couldn't) care less as to who eventually 'owns' the said piece. The rule of thumb is usually to the victor the spoils, but that is impossible to determine.

If you are a serious collector, and can afford to purchase on whatever principle, then fine. This obviously elliminates the chance of joe public ever laying their hands on such exhibits -as it will undoubtedly be sold to the highest bidder. Making additons to thier private museums. Unless of course they are liberated. Which is a relative and subjective debate.

But during times of war, theft and pillaging, these war trophys end up being sold onwards. (if only to raise finance for the miltias involved) and usually, depending on the political status of the 'bailiff' as to who will become the 'owner'.

Many museums accross the world exhibit artifacts from accross the world.

It doesn't matter what the artefact is, but who actually attains rightful ownership. If we are to assume that is based purely on who has the bigger stick, then that makes us all neanderthals.

Still, even though various bodies may be set up (in their divine wisdom) to distribute these artefacts, who merits it and on what principles? and furthermore the fact that you are a historian, or a professor, or a beaurocrat doesn't automatically grant you that entitlement to make these decisions. Especially if your salary influences your decisions

...and who decided that you should hold such a priviliged position?

I think every museum curator world over should justify why they feel entitled to exhibit and/or own such curiousities.

No, don't tell me...

We have top men working on it!
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Old 03-27-2009, 05:37 PM   #2
Lance Quazar
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Fortunately, we're more enlightened about those kinds of issues than we used to be, when priceless archaeological treasures were indeed bought and sold on the whims of foreign governments, conquerors, wealthy collectors, etc.

Nowadays, it seems like historical and archaeological treasures belong in the country in which they were discovered.

On a more philosophical note, I really think those kinds of things belong to "all mankind" - not to get too cheesy or sentimental - and should be kept and displayed in such a way that they can be appreciated by as many people as possible.
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Old 03-27-2009, 05:57 PM   #3
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Dr Tyree I presume?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lance Quazar
Fortunately, we're more enlightened about those kinds of issues than we used to be, when priceless archaeological treasures were indeed bought and sold on the whims of foreign governments, conquerors, wealthy collectors, etc.

Nowadays, it seems like historical and archaeological treasures belong in the country in which they were discovered.

On a more philosophical note, I really think those kinds of things belong to "all mankind" - not to get too cheesy or sentimental - and should be kept and displayed in such a way that they can be appreciated by as many people as possible.

There's nothing cheesey, sentimental, twee or glib about national treasures. Some races and cultures where wiped off the planet for such merciless wanton desires!

...but what of the spoils already plundered. Seems there's no dignity in death.
some people may argue that Coronados dead, and so are all his grandchildren.

Even Achilles conceded that the body of Hector be returned. I believe such artefacts be returned to there country of origin ( or it's modern day state equivelant)

That's just the humane thing to do.
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Old 06-07-2009, 09:41 PM   #4
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Achilles had his fun showing off Hector's body before acceding to Priam's request to return it. It's not like he returned it out of his generosity of spirit.


To play devil's advocate for a moment, what happens when Western museums empty their collections and leave their museums empty? As jingoistic as certain Western nations are caused of being, when you close the museums you're cutting out one more chance for the locals to learn a bit of history. Also, what if the Western museum is better equipped for preservation that the home nation?

For example, the British Museum was created in 1753 and officially opened in 1759, and the original Egyptian Museum wasn't built until 1835 and later relocated to its next location in 1858. The current museum wasn't established and built until 1902. That's working on two-hundred years of experience.
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Old 06-16-2009, 09:52 AM   #5
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Indy

Why don't we talk about Italy then?
We have hundreds of our greatests pieces of art and artifacts in many museums across the world.
However I do not condamn a country reluctant to restitute the threasures they took/stole because, at least, if an artifact goes to a museum there will be the opportunity for people to see it and think about the men who created it.
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Old 10-24-2009, 09:02 PM   #6
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There was an article in today's...

...New York Times about this very subject. It seems that Zahi Hawass is causing a stink about a 3,500 year-old bust of Nefertiti recently unveiled at a German museum.

Click through to In Europe, Artifacts Are Latest Political Pawns.
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Old 10-28-2009, 04:38 PM   #7
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Being an archaeologist, I have studied many artifacts in museums that came from distant countries. These collections allowed me to understand the ancient people who created them, etc. My researches have also brought me to the countries where these artifacts originated.

After so many experiences in these other museums, I realized that some countries simply do not have the funding or capabilities to maintain their collections. Poor storage conditions, improper displays, etc can all be more devastating for the artifacts than having them lost in private collections. Developing countries i.e. Mexico, the Southeast Asia region, Egypt, and even Greece (even after the 2004 Olympics), simply do not have the necessary money to properly maintain their cultural heritage. Ideally, I believe that artifacts should stay in the countries where they came from, but the reality is that it is too risky for the artifacts to be kept in unacceptable conditions when other facilities are available and willing.

Secondly, these countries rarely have archaeological courses at higher levels or enough students to make contributions to academia. These collections allow regions where archaeological students are in a higher density to have access to study and enrich these countries with cultural history. Don't get me wrong, archaeology does not simply come from westerners, but when considered with my previous statement regarding improper facilities, then this can be seen as an additional benefit.

So, when every country has the ability to maintain collections at the current standards in which they are kept now (compare the museums in Cairo to the newly built and opened Neues Museum in Berlin featuring the bust of Nefertiti; it is better off left in Berlin for now), then the artifacts should remain where they are. The side benefit being these museums tend to be accessible by budding archaeologists.
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Old 11-01-2009, 01:54 AM   #8
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I think the destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas by the Taliban is a good argument for western museums holding onto ancient treasures. How many treasures currently in the possession of western museums would have been long destroyed had they not been removed?
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Old 11-02-2009, 08:31 PM   #9
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To me, Archaeology is more about context, it's not so much the artifact, but where the artifact was found. Only when everything has been learned from the object in context should the artifact be taken away to a museum for further examination.
Of course I think the country, in which the artifact was found, should have jurisdiction over what happens to said object, but I agree with fellow posters here that the best conditions for these artifacts are in well funded museums, that many nations just cannot supply.

There are positives and negatives to moving artifacts from their native country, but moving them is so those far away, in distance, and in the future can enjoy and explore history. So the things that we have learned stay with us and don't get clumsily destroyed over war or brutal dictatorships. Anyways, enough of my rant, back to studying.
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Old 11-17-2009, 04:50 PM   #10
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In a rare case of follow-up, The New York Times has an interesting little article on "A Case in Antiquities for 'Finders Keepers'"

Once you're done reading that, check out James Cuno's book Who Owns Antiquity?: Museums and the Battle Over Our Ancient Heritage. Click here to read Cuno's introduction.

You can also sit in on the debate over who should the Rosetta Stone over here.

Last edited by Le Saboteur : 11-17-2009 at 05:00 PM.
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Old 12-25-2009, 02:35 PM   #11
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I wrote my senior thesis about this very topic. I found the book "Loot" by Sharon Waxman to be a really interesting look into this extremely complex debate. She examines the issue from all angles, using particular cases like the Zodiac of Denderah, the Rosetta Stone, the Nefertiti Bust.

"Orientalism" by Edward Said is interesting too. It presents a theory about how cultural resources from the far east are objectified by the west, and museums display their art simply to show how "exotic" and "foreign" it is.

One of the huge issues I have with museums is the fact they tend to buy stolen objects with no provenances in the name of preservation, and then post a blurb in their museum next to the object on display that simply states where it comes from and nothing more, effectively erasing the history of how it got from it's original location to the museum. If museums are going to claim that they are preserving history I believe they need to preserve all of it, not just the parts they like.
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Old 02-11-2010, 07:54 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Le Saboteur
...New York Times about this very subject. It seems that Zahi Hawass is causing a stink about a 3,500 year-old bust of Nefertiti recently unveiled at a German museum.

Okay, the bust of Nefertiti wasn't recently unveiled. It's been the showcase item at the Berlin Museum for generations. Discovered in 1912 by a German archaeological team and snuck out of the country.

Just posted about this topic on another page about Zahi Hawass. I hate to quote myself, but rather than retyping....

Quote:
Originally Posted by goodeknight
Finally, regarding his push for the return of artifacts to Egypt, he's completely justified, particularly in cases where significant finds were essentially smuggled out of the country. The Rosetta Stone was taken during French occupation, and the bust of Nefertiti was (if I recall correctly) smothered in mud and shipped out as 'another unfinished bust' from a workshop. Though its value was known immediately by the German team that discovered it, they snuck it out of the country, bounced it around museums for a while low key, and eventually displayed it as the bust of the famed Queen Nefertiti. Rather nefarious.

The village of Gourna outside of Luxor is famed for being the home to many generations of looters, who built their homes over the entrances to tombs. They looted for a living, and sold mummies and grave goods to archaeologists, tourists, and curators. If they found gold statues, they usually melted them down because selling a bar of gold was easier than fencing a gold statue. Sad to think how many statues or other gold relics were lost because of that. So there are literally thousands and thousands of stolen artifacts scattered around the world. Hawass just want to get some of the more important ones back.

Hawass also assisted in getting the mummy of Ramses I returned to Egypt after a museum bought the Egyptian collection from a museum of the bizarre in Canada at Niagra Falls. Good going there.

As was said earlier, less important artifacts or even minor mummies should be displayed around the world. Egyptian history is the world's history. But Hawass is right in thinking royal mummies, and artifacts like the Rosetta Stone and bust of Nefertiti should be returned to Egypt. They belong in a museum! The Egyptian Museum!

Also, good to see someone quoting Orientalism! That was the topic of my Master's thesis at the American University of Cairo. Referenced it in my Hawass post.
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Old 05-06-2010, 02:46 AM   #13
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Michael Kimmelman continues on the topic of "who owns antiquity?" with another article, this time on the Elgin Marbles. Greece has demanded their return from the British Museum, and parties from both countries sat down for talks beginning yesterday.

Quote:
The British Museum is Europe’s Western front in the global war over cultural patrimony, on account of the marbles. The pamphlets give the museum’s version for why they should stay in Britain, as they have for two centuries — ever since Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Sublime Porte at Constantinople, and with the consent of the ruling Ottomans (not to mention a blithe disregard for whatever may have been the wishes of the Greek populace), spirited them from the Acropolis in Athens. The pamphlet stresses that the British Museum is free and attracts millions of visitors every year from around the world, making the sculptures available to, and putting them in the context of, a wide swath of human civilization.

Drop in on The New York Times to read up on the Demands for the Elgin Marbles. You can also read up on the reasons why the British Museum thinks the sculptures should remain on their dreary isle of blight.

The Greek counterpoint is right over here.
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Old 01-25-2011, 08:48 AM   #14
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Egypt wants bust of Queen Nefertiti back

Quote:
But Germany maintains that statue was obtained legally, won't return it

Egypt has again demanded the return of the 3,300-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti. By Rossella Lorenzi
Discovery Channel

Egypt formally demanded the return of the 3,300-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti, saying it was sneaked out of the country illegally.

Dating from the 14th century B.C., the 19-inch painted limestone bust is credited with making Nefertiti famous worldwide.

Renowned as one of history's great beauties, Nefertiti (1370 B.C.-about 1330 B.C.) was the royal wife of the "heretic" pharaoh Akhenaton, who initiated a new monotheistic religion that involved the worship of the sun god Aton.

Missing one eye, the portrait shows the beautiful queen with a long, slender neck, elegantly arched brows and a tall, blue crown.

“It is a unique and irreplaceable artifact,” Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) said in an emailed statement.

The statement added that an official request for restitution was made to Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Berlin, which oversees all of Germany's state museums, after "four years of research by a legal committee composed of famous legal personnel and Egyptologists.”

The bust was unearthed in 1912 by German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt in the workshop of the court sculptor Thutmose at the ancient site of Amarna.

According to the Egyptian authorities, Borchardt sneaked the bust out of Egypt under a coating of clay and shipped it to Germany.

He deliberately described the artwork as the portrait of a royal princess made of plaster, although he knew that it was a limestone statue of Queen Nefertiti.

“It is clear from all the records that Borchardt recognized immediately the unique nature and artistic quality of this piece, as well as its historical importance,” the SCA said.

Egypt first requested the restitution of the statue in the 1930s, but Germany always denied any request, insisting that the bust was obtained legally.

In 2007 Germany even refused to lend the statue for a three-month exhibition in Egypt, saying that Nefertiti's bust was too fragile to transport.

The latest Egyptian request will be no exception, according to a statement by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

“The foundation’s position regarding a return of the bust of Nefertiti is unchanged. She is and remains Egypt's best ambassador in Berlin,” the foundation president, Hermann Parzinger, said.

Currently on display at Berlin's Neues Museum as Inventory No. AM 21300, the limestone bust is first on the wish list of five important objects that Egypt hopes to have returned.

The most interesting part:

Quote:
The secretary general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr. Zahi Hawass, claims to have secured the return of some 5,000 treasures during his SCA tenure, the list includes the Zodiac of Dendera at the Louvre museum; the Rosetta Stone at the British museum; the bust of Achhaf, the builder of the Chephren Pyramid, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; and a statue of Hemiunu, the nephew of Pharaoh Khufu, from Germany's Roemer-Pelizaeu museum.

“The bust of Nefertiti, upon its return, will be exhibited at the Akhenaten Museum in Minya opening in early 2012,” Hawass said.
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Old 01-26-2011, 01:29 AM   #15
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According to Der Spiegel, the minute records that Borchardt deceived Lefébvre by claiming the Nefertiti head was made of gypsum, rather than limestone. The Deutschen Orientgesellschaft confirmed the existence of the minute but maintained that the division was fair. The secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, has demanded a copy of the document. 10 February 2009

“We’re not treasure hunters,” Mr. Hawass told Spiegel Online. “If it’s proven clearly that the work was not stolen,” he said. “there shouldn’t be any problem.”
Then he said he was sure the work had been stolen. 23 October 2009

”I believe Borchardt cheated,” Dr Hawass said. ”I think this was stolen, and we have the evidence to prove it.” 7 December 2009

"There will be no negotiations about the restitution of Nefertiti's bust," the statement adds. "Documents about the division of finds of 1912 will be given to the Egyptian side." This may have been news to Dr Hawass, however, whose blog yesterday listed little more than the arguments for Nefertiti's return. 21 December 2009

As you can tell from these dated excerpts, there seems to be some problems. First, I object to Hawass claiming it was stolen with no evidence. The quotes above, before Hawass had the documents, show he will say anything despite the lack of evidence. That is rather unethical. Second, you cannot say it was stolen when the documents point out that the bust was clearly listed! OK, the material is different, but we do not know the context, it could have been to deceive, it could have been a mistake, it could have been the mistake of an intern for all we know, but the fact remains a bust of Nefertiti was listed. Third, is an earlier claim, before these quotes above and mention of documents etc, that the bust was covered with clay or hidden in a box or just not listed. (Sorry I don't have any of these stories, but I am sure they are out there) All of this just shows that Egypt has no LEGAL claim to the bust. I am sick of Hawass, who I otherwise like, for making these bogus claims: Oh we have evidence, we have evidence! But you know if that is their evidence, they have some problems.

On this topic Hawass has made himself totally with no credit. Claims without evidence is bad enough, especially for a scientist, but the OFFICIAL request of the bust in 2011 is not even a real official claim (meaning the Egypt is asking Germany as opposed to Hawass asking the Neus Museum, which is not new). These are simply low tactics on the part of Hawass and it is embarrassing. Earlier this month I was in Egypt, visiting the typical sites and meeting a friend with the German Archaeological Institute in Luxor.

This issue was only briefly discussed, because Egypt has bigger problems. Their temples are being used as bathrooms (every site we visited), local thieves use sites to mug (happened twice at knife point to my colleague, pics to prove it too), and the guards take money so the tourists can rub the hieroglyphs or statues. These are just a couple of the real issues that Hawass should deal with. After seeing the state of things, this is appearing as no more than a greedy scheme for tourism (the amount of junk with her face on it is unbelievable) rather than a noble effort to return Egypt's cultural heritage.

On a side note, the locals I talked to didn't even know the bust was in Germany, not because they just couldn't think of the country it was housed in, but because they thought it was in the museum in Cairo.

But my personal experiences aside, Hawass has no legal right to the bust and in regards to the country wanting it, I believe they do, but not for cultural reasons. There is a lot more work to be done in Egypt, and I am not talking about excavations, but maintenance and scientific research. Lastly, why is Hawass not responding to the comments from the Neus Museum that the bust is too fragile to move? If that was a response to me, it would be something to respond too, but his silence makes me imagine he thinks it is better to destroy the bust trying to return it than having it in another country. OR he simply does not believe he will actually get it (so why waste time thinking of how to transport it) and simply wants the attention. Both are unsavory and unscientific ways of thinking, however they are only my interpretations of his way of thinking based on his actions.
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Old 01-26-2011, 02:28 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rocket Surgeon
The most interesting part:

It is interesting. But not for the reasons implied.

For several years now, Dr. Hawass has insisted that he'd drop Egypt's preference for the permanent repatriation of the Rosetta Stone in exchange for a loan of said artifact. While the duration was never specified -- at least not publicly -- Dr. Hawass has said that it would be "short term."



The five artifacts specifically mentioned in the article are the ones Dr. Hawass has been after for, well, years. Has Dr. Hawass finally convinced the British Museum to lend the Rosetta Stone, or is the author of that piece conflating Hawass' desire to have these "unique cultural objects" back on their native soil with the ones that have actually been returned?

I suspect the former. And if it does eventually end up on loan, it won't be until the Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza opens in 2013. Based on what I've been able to find of the plans, it would have a fantastic, albeit temporary, home.

While I've been unable to find anything that backs up the veracity of the author's claim, it does appear that the Egyptian Government has sent an (another?) official request for the repatriation of the Bust of Nefertiti from the Neues Museum. The letter was sent to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which oversees all museums in Germany, and appears to have been "denied." PCHF president Dr. Hermann Parzinger insists that the letter was not signed by the Egyptian Prime Minister, and thus did not have the imprimatur of law.

Which shouldn't be surprising considering previous statements made by the organization about Egypt's lack of legal standing. Our German speaking friends can find the original statement on the museum's site; the rest of us, however, can enjoy this translation provided by the Heritage Key.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stiftung Preussischer Kulterbsitz
Dr Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of the Republic of Egypt, in a letter addressed to Prof Dr Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, requested the return of the bust of Nefertiti. The letter in question is not signed by the Prime Minister (of Egypt). No official request for restitution (of the bust) on the part of the Egyptian state is available.

Parzinger says: “The position of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation with respect to a return of Nefertiti's bust remains the same. She is, and remains, the best Egyptian ambassador in Berlin. The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation has a strong interest in a successful cooperation between their museums and Egyptian experts, and is currently formulating the first ideas for cooperation. These proposals for cooperation, I have also included in my answer to Dr Zahi Hawass.”

The bust of Nefertiti, which today as part of the Egyptian collection in the Neues Museum on Berlin's Museum Island is admired by visitors from all around the world, was found as part of archaeological excavations, approved by Egypt, at Tell el-Amarna in 1912. The excavation was made possible through financing of Berlin businessman and philanthropist James Simon, and led by Professor Dr Borchardt from the Imperial German Institut for Egyptian Antiquities. Considering the funding, it was agreed with the Egyptian side to use the then common division for the finds.

To guarantee both parties would acquire an equal share of the finds, it was agreed that the archaeological team would divide the finds in two, and the Egyptian Antiquities Service – as representative of the Egyptian government – would get first pick. The division happened as described, and the objects were accurately recorded in lists. Of the more outstanding artefacts – and thus also for the bust of Nefertiti – there were accompanying photographs, which clearly showed the beauty and quality of the objects. There are no grounds to claim deception during the division. The documents show clearly that the Prussian State acquired the bust lawfully, and that Egypt has no legal claims (to the bust).

Additional reading.

Guardian Reader Poll: Majority Want Rosetta Stone to Stay in Britain

The Poll & Commentary

10 Reasons Why the Bust of Nefertiti Should Stay in Berlin

Give it Back! The Ethics of Repatriation

The History Blog: Should Britain Return the Rosetta Stone to Egypt?

Is Repatriation Good for Archeology?

Last edited by Le Saboteur : 01-26-2011 at 02:40 AM.
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Old 01-26-2011, 07:36 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Le Saboteur
It is interesting. But not for the reasons implied.
What reason do you believe was implied?
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