The Huffington Post has an online opinion piece about antiquities looting (Brendan Pittaway, 'Mobsters, Museums and the Twin Towers: Tutankhamun and the Illicit Antiquities Trade ' 22/11/2012). It is based around the tale of Carter's opening of Tutankhamun's tomb and an increasing interest among collectors to get their hands on collectable items, and the way this has been capitalised on by what the author calls "gangsters and terrorists". Over the years, he argues:
mobsters now globalised the trade, generating billions of dollars each year. They ensnared private collectors and unscrupulous institutions who didn't care from where or how objects were acquired. [...] The latter-day illegal tomb raiders, also used mechanical diggers to smash apart historic sites in search of sellable trinkets and used material as collateral in drug deals. Great swathes of land, formerly part of ancient or classical civilisations in the Americas, Europe and the Far East have been destroyed.he then illustrates the alleged terrorist connection by referring to the story that WTC attacker, Egyptian Mohamed Atta is reported to have tried to sell artefacts looted in Afghanistan to a German university in 1999 in order to get the money to buy a plane.
thieves have used political upheaval and war in order to cherry-pick antiquities from museums and places of interest. The 'Arab Spring' continues to prompt grave concerns about spoliation with museums not spared from attack. Syria currently alarms the archaeological community in much the same way that Libya, Egypt and Iraq all have in recent years.It is however the connections between the no-questions-asked market in antiquities and the raising of money to fund criminal and extremist activities have led to two recent schemes intended to create conditions to stem the black market in antiquities.
Both measures provide structure and the promise of greater knowledge of a topic which, by its very nature, has been clandestine, lucrative and often dangerous.The first is the team at Glasgow University who has been awarded a £1 million grant to determine the extent and methods of the criminal trade in artefacts. The second is the announcement that the International Council of Museums (ICOM) is setting up a new intelligence group to monitor illegal antiquities trafficking.