Midburn Damaged Ancient Site [Updates]

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

So much for Leave No Trace. Apparently Midburn damaged, perhaps even destroyed, a cultural site  150,000 years old. Ironically, they erected their Temple right above the site.

From Asssociated Press:

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli Antiquities Authority says revelers at a Burning Man festival famous for its pyrotechnic spectacles have accidentally torched some remnants of prehistoric man.

Archaeologist Yoram Haimi says organizers of Midburn, an Israeli affiliate of the Nevada carnival, burned a wooden temple Saturday on a hilltop scattered with flint tools from the Paleolithic, Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods.

The site was discovered 30 years ago by an Israeli archaeologist. The area is not marked with signs and it is hard to see the ancient remains. He says the extent of the damage is unclear.

Eyal Marcus, Midburn spokesman, said antiquities officials only approached organizers in the middle of the festival.

“We are sorry,” Marcus said. “One of our principles is ‘leave no trace.’ We are not for destroying.”

From Haaretz:

the burning of the Midburn “temple” Saturday night, which caused a huge blaze lasting several hours, damaged an archaeological site at the community Nahal Boker. The site contains ruins from the Middle Paleolithic period 150,000 years ago and the Epipaleolithic period 15,000 years ago.

The flat-topped hill on which the temple stood served as a workshop in ancient times. The site was discovered 30 years ago and the find scuttled plans to build a power station there.

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, the damage may be great, though it can only be fully assessed once the weather turns rainy and the dust is washed away.

“It’s unfortunate and sad,” said Yoram Haimi, the authority’s archaeologist for the district. Haimi said he toured the area during the event, after the temple had been put up, and asked Midburn’s organizers to ensure that it would not be burned to the ground.

He also asked that the coals stoking the fire be removed manually, not with heavy equipment. On Monday, it was clear that neither request had been fulfilled.

Haimi plans to file a police complaint. “Maybe that will deter them next year,” he said.

Midburn’s organizers said they had received permits for the festival from all the necessary agencies, including the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

“The antiquities authority contacted us only in the middle of the event,” they said in a statement. “We tried very hard not to harm the area and collect all the waste, because that’s part of Midburn’s principles. We regret any misunderstanding.”

Midburn was also interrupted by bomb disposal squads, who removed 2 unexploded bombs found at the site, and the tragic death of an experienced Burner.

From the Times of Israel:

organizers had to call in a bomb-disposal unit during the festival to take care of two unexploded ordinances, likely left over from Israeli military training exercises. Part of the camp was evacuated for a few hours while the bomb-disposal unit worked, but no one was injured and the bombs were disposed of safely.

There was also a death for the first time at a Midburn event: An older participant suffered a heart attack just 15 meters from an ambulance stationed at the event.

The man, in his 50s and a veteran of many Burning Man events around the world, collapsed from an apparent heart attack, likely unconnected to the festival or to substance abuse. Paramedics instantly began life-saving measures and stabilized the man before he was taken to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, where he later died.

Other than that, it seems like a good time was had by all. More coverage, including photos, at:

The Guardian

The Globe and Mail

 [Update 5/28/15 8:06am PST]

Page 11 of the Midburn transparency report said that they were required to get an inspection by the Israeli Antiquities Authority. It seems this may have happened this year after the Temple had been constructed.

Midburn have released this official statement on Facebook:

Dear Midburners,

Today we read in the press that there is a concern we may have caused damage to an archeological site while burning the Temple. If this is true, we consider it a very serious matter. We’ve of course received all the necessary permits from all authorities (Nature and Parks Authority, the Regional Council, the Police, Israel Land Authority etc’) to hold the event in a lawful manner, including permits for the specific locations of the art installations and the city’s perimeter. Throughout the permitting process, we worked in full transparency and coordination with all the relevant authorities.

Nevertheless, Civic Responsibility is our guiding principle and that requires us to act as responsibly as possible and take measures that extend far beyond the minimum requirements of the law.

We will therefore examine the claims by Israel Antiquities Authority and continue to be a community that is involved and is aware of the environment in which it exists. We promise to investigate the matter thoroughly and to keep you updated.

Image: Midburn/Facebook

Image: Midburn/Facebook


[Update 5/29/15 4:04pm PST]

Say anything critical of something in Israel, and it won’t be long until someone throws Anti-Semitism into the social media trollfest. Like, there are all these special rules, that wouldn’t apply to discussing Kiwiburn or Burning Seed or Flipside or Element11.

That’s not right. Burners are burners, dude. Wherever they are, whatever they do for a living, whatever god they worship (or not). There are not “some special Burners” and then “the rest of the Burners”. Whoever is thinking like that needs to experience some Radical Exclusion and Civic Rejection.

I’m not even criticizing Midburn – kudos to them for more than tripling in size since last year, getting the support of a Nobel Prize winner and Royal Society Fellow, getting judges to back them, and overcoming all obstacles in their path. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if there is some political backlash against them, and maybe that’s why the media is piling on.

Type “burning man” into Google and then in the Search Tools put “past week” or “past 24 hours”. That is what Burners.Me is here for: to share my opinions about what is being said on the Internet about Burning Man and the intergalactic (and inner-galactic psychonautic) realms of this Burner culture that is spreading around the world.

If you did what I just suggested, you’d see a lot of talk about Midburn. It’s not just me making things up, all of this really happened. And many people are taking the allegation of disrespecting a culturally sensitive site quite seriously. If I could speak in the vernacular of the Voices of Burning Man propaganda channel for a moment, I would say it thus:

“LEAVE NO TRACE”

Some say “the principles are just guidelines”, a vague and self-contradictory ethos.

Many Burners say “this is not just a festival, it’s not just a party in the desert, sex and drugs and sects and EDM”…this is a movement. Something substantial, and long-lasting, and growing and improving all the time. To many Burners, having Principles behind the movement means something in their lives.

All Burners around the world are now being smeared with this slur of trace-leaving. Did Midburn leave a trace? Or not? There is not enough evidence available yet to decide either way. But here is just a sampling of what is being said on the Internet over the last day or two.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/israel/.premium-1.658399

http://www.timesofisrael.com/ancient-artifacts-burned-at-israels-burning-man/

http://www.epa.eu/arts-culture-and-entertainment-photos/crime-archeology-photos/israeli-antiquities-authorities-claimed-damages-to-an-archaeological-site-after-israel-midburn-festival-photos-51964005

http://www.breitbart.com/big-hollywood/2015/05/28/israeli-burning-man-festival-damages-ancient-archaeological-site/

http://www.twcc.com/articles/2015/05/28/o/oops-israeli-burning-man-festival-torches-ancient-remains

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/festivals/burning-man-festival-revellers-accidentally-torch-prehistoric-artefacts-in-israel-10284842.html

Some original content re-blogged here from Tablet Magazine:

thescroll_header

Ancient Archaeological Site Torched at Israel’s Midburn Festival

Flint tools from Paleolithic, Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods are history

Last week, the second annual Midburn festival—a radical five-day event of art and expression and self-reliance and sundry communal tomfoolery—took place in a “temporary city” in the Negev Desert. An estimated 6,000 attended, who, by virtue of being present, adhere to “The Ten Principles” as established by Larry Harvey, the founder of the U.S.-based Burning Man festival after which Midburn is modeled. But it appears that two principles, namely “Civic Responsibility” and “Leaving No Trace,” were violated.

On May 24, a Saturday night, festivalgoers watched a wooden temple burn on a hilltop. I imagine many danced, or gazed agape as they contemplated the meaning of it all, as the flames screamed upward into the night sky. Below the fire, however, and atop the hill, were prehistoric artifacts. Reports Haaretz:

…a huge blaze lasting several hours, damaged an archaeological site at the community Nahal Boker. The site contains ruins from the Middle Paleolithic period 150,000 years ago and the Epipaleolithic period 15,000 years ago.

The flat-topped hill on which the temple stood served as a workshop in ancient times. The site was discovered 30 years ago and the find scuttled plans to build a power station there.

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, the damage may be great, though it can only be fully assessed once the weather turns rainy and the dust is washed away.

“It’s unfortunate and sad,” said Yoram Haimi, the authority’s archaeologist for the district. Haimi said he toured the area during the event, after the temple had been put up, and asked Midburn’s organizers to ensure that it would not be burned to the ground.

Haimi told Haaretz that he will file a police complaint. Apparently, Midburn authorities covered its tracks, obtaining all the necessary permits.

“The antiquities authority contacted us only in the middle of the event,” they said in a statement. “We tried very hard not to harm the area and collect all the waste, because that’s part of Midburn’s principles. We regret any misunderstanding.”

 

Related: Israel’s First Burning Man, One Mile From Ben Gurion’s Grave


There is very little being said at Midburn’s English-language Facebook group. Where is the community of thousands of people who were at the event, rallying around to defend them?

Screenshot 2015-05-29 16.16.34

That’s not a selection, at the time of writing – that’s it.

Over at their much bigger Israeli group, there seems to be very little concern about this.

Screenshot 2015-05-29 16.30.12

Screenshot 2015-05-29 16.31.34 Screenshot 2015-05-29 16.30.51 Screenshot 2015-05-29 16.30.31

The above was taken out of about 14 comments. Blame Bill Gates if anything was lost in translation. Perhaps anyone fluent in Hebrew or with inside knowledge could comment here and update us if this is being taken more seriously in the homeland, in a discussion group we’re not yet privy to. I’m just gathering whatever I can find from the Internet and sharing what I think is the most relevant with you guys, the more detail the better. Anyone reading this can do the same, so please share with the group if you find something.

This story from US News says that Eyal Marcus has an official antiquities authority map of the site that shows no archaeological sites there – curiouser and curiouser. There can’t be “no sites” and “some sites”, so somebody either has their facts wrong or is deliberately spreading misinformation.

Screenshot 2015-05-29 16.38.50

It would definitely be great if Midburn shared a copy of that map, in the spirit of transparency.

Why are we not hearing about any drug arrests? Perhaps because they didn’t happen? This seemed like the main police fear, and it seems like Midburn did very well on that. However that is purely speculation on my part, I have absolutely no evidence to back it up. Perhaps those with more information, might care to share the more positive aspects of this story like that. Greenpeace isn’t all bad just because they graffiti’d the Nazca lines. And I’m sure no-one in Midburn would intentionally disturb a sacred archaeological site. But if a Burn was held on my nice rug in my living room, shouldn’t “Leave No Trace” mean my rug is still fine the next day? Let alone things that were buried in the ground beneath it for tens of thousands of years…

“All of Israel is an archaelogical site, all of Israel is a bomb site”…these arguments don’t wash with me.

“It’s totally fine if we trashed the site because we got permits”…this attitude is atrocious, and reminds me of THIS.

“Political haters are trying to screw with Midburn”…that sounds plausible, though not convincing. If Midburn can produce some documentation supporting their side, or if the Israeli Antiquities Authority fails to produce any evidence of damage, this argument will look stronger.

The remains of the remains, remains to be seen. We must wait for the rainy season, so it seems.

2015 midburn_620


[Update 6/4/15 4:13am PST]

Much more detail about this story here. The concern was not the fire, but heavy machinery used in construction. It sounds like Midburn made an effort to co-operate with the IAA last year, and is doing so now.

22 comments on “Midburn Damaged Ancient Site [Updates]

  1. The organizers are all very smart and considerate people. They acquired the permits before hand and I would speculate that this is an accusation to justify preventing a community of open minded and creative people from growing further and having gatherings. If it means having future burns in the Sinai or Jordan, then so be it, even at the security risks that could be encountered.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Future burns are guaranteed, they got a Nobel Prize winner to step up for them with a public statement, they got a judge to order the cops to toe the line, and they got reluctant cops to go along with it. We’re not hearing of any drug busts, which I think is the real news. But that would just be speculation on my part…as your comment is also speculation. Both of us should be careful with speculation, I’m trying to stick to the facts on this and stay neutral. I trust both Haaretz and Associated Press as sources and I am quoting them verbatim.

      Like

    • It is most curious in regards of the actions of the antiquities gent. Might he have conversed with two, or three people, in a polite manner requested them to not burn the temple, was not of the ability to show them any stones of concern, and then left Midburn? Why did he not remain at Midburn, and meet with the police in regards of these matters, might it have been important? And, why did he not state his concerns when the permits were priorly reviewed, or at the 2014 Midburn at the same place?

      Might you imagine an antiquities gent conversing with the DPW at the Nevada Burn, requesting that the temple not be burned in due of Indian arrowheads, while they were disposing of unexploded shells from the military, after the police did all that they might to halt the event from occurring by refusing to sign a permit until the courts ordered them to do so at the last minute, constructing numerous fences to halt cars from parking at the camp sites at the last minute, and other rubbish? What might be the response of the DPW?

      Kudos to the Midburn organizers and people, for a fine event, and resist the Borg from assimilating you.

      In addendum, might you have noticed the river at Burning Flipside flooded Flipside in due of the heavy rains that occurred in Texas? Kudos, to them, for the event occurring, and of no person was injured, but, what a most horrible mess. It might be a week of time prior to the theme camps are removed from the bog, and more time for people to clean their items of mud.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I absolutely believe if the BLM came to the organizers in the middle of Burning Man and said “hey we just realized we let you build the temple over a sensitive site. Even though you have a permit, we would like you to cancel the temple burn”, the organizers would do it and and ask the BLM for advice on how best to remove the temple to prevent damage to the site. “Too bad, we have a permit” doesn’t sound like the response of a Burner to me. It is a way of avoiding responsibility for your actions.

        Like

  2. Just waiting for this unfortunate news to get spun into a sordid tale of intentional degradation of a World Heritage site by insensitive, arrogant burners coupled with a nice topping of ‘blame Larry.’

    I’m sure that there are more than a few mea culpa’s to own up to but can’t help but think that what’s almost inevitable is that this is where the thread will eventually wind up in spite of any clarification or update on the facts.

    Like

  3. I mean…shouldn’t whatever conversation happens that allows for the site to be used for a burn (or any festival, period) be vetted for this kind of BS before hand?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If it is true that they came to the Midburn authorities asking that the temple not be burned to the ground and not cleaned up with heavy equipment and those requests were ignored, it is totally on the Midburn organizers. Midburn should be placed on probation as far as being an official regional.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Why on earth didn’t this come up during the permit process? As saddened as the Burner community is that any damage was done at all, the responsibility of protecting an archeological site lies with those who are aware of its existence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Regardless of the site, the permits, the warnings…I always thought “Leave No Trace” meant “don’t damage the ground underneath you”. I guess this was lost in translation.

      Like

    • “the responsibility of protecting an archeological site lies with those who are aware of its existence”

      Exactly!!

      And those issuing the permits.

      Typical of this site to turn this into tabloid news.

      Like

      • To your first point, they were made aware of it before the Temple burn, with specific requests not to bulldoze afterwards.

        To the rest, you accuse us of turning Associated Press and Haaretz stories, into tabloids? Hmmm, interesting theory. Is there any way you could back it up, with some evidence, or quotes relating to what the fuck you’re talking about?

        Nope, didn’t think so, troll attacks are dialled up high now. I feel like Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/mad-max-incredulous-tom-hardy-798524

        Like

  6. the event production team went above and beyond, trying to make it all happen while keeping civic responsibility. our local authorities did their best to get us to cancel at the last moment, our establishments are scared by the winds of change, but this time we prevailed. the fact that no one came in the 4 months of permit-dealing about this hidden-site cannot be blamed on Midburn, though we always try our best.

    Like

    • The real question is, at any point before the actual burning of the temple did they come to the Midburn organizers and tell you burning the temple would damage the site. If the answer is yes, it is on the organizers. You desire for some performance art does not give you permission to damage the site and is completely against burner principles.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree, and the way the story has been described in the mainstream media so far, it sounds like that is EXACTLY what happened. They stopped the party for the bombs, but not for the artifacts.

        Like

  7. Reblogged this on Terry Gotham and commented:

    So maybe when an archaeologist tells you not to remove coals manually, and not to burn the temple to the ground on an ancient site of antiquity from the Middle Paleolithic period, you should listen.

    It also had 2 unexploded bombs that needed to be defused during the event.

    All in all, sounds like a party. Maybe chill with the Temple burn on a site of antiquity next time.

    Liked by 1 person

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