Monday, 14 July 2014

Tell Sheikh Hamad Stele in the news again

Main picture in Sunday Times article - the stele
Pakistan Today reworks the Sunday Times article discussed earlier here ('ISIS digs up dollars: extremists loot antiquities', 13th July 2014). "Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have reportedly been on a looting spree, ransacking the areas under their control, according to UK-based The Sunday Times". It seems that the stele of Adad-nerari III of Assyria (c. 805-797 B.C. from Tell Sheikh Hamad in NE Syria is being referred to here:
Nada al-Hassan, head of the Arab states unit at UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, described an Assyrian black basalt royal stele from the 8th century BC that the London auction house Bonhams removed from sale in April after estimating its value at up to £795,000. “That was intercepted by Interpol,” she said, adding that it was a “success story” because there was proof that ISIS had been responsible for digging it up.[my hyperlinks]
yes yes, and then ms al-Hassan will expect us to believe that they put it in their ISIL time machine and took it back to the year 2000 and tried to sell it at Christie's in New York (and then it was seen by Karen Radner and identified [2010] as the lower half of an item in the British Museum). Come on, pull the other one, we should be able to expect better from UNESCO.  ISIL/ISIS was formed much later, in April 2013 from ISI (Islamic State of Iraq, formerly led by Huthaifa al-Batawi, and then by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi).

I really do think there is scope for much more responsible reporting here, and indicating what is real news which has been verified and when the journalist is merely repeating convenient fairy stories handed out by others for propaganda purposes. And who is behind the latter and why?

UPDATE 15th July 2014:
I have contacted Ms Al-Hassan, despite her UNESCO contact page being for some reason 'down', and she replied that the journalists had misunderstood her. Sam Hardy has attempted to contact Alberge and Arraf about their reporting of the stele, but received no reply as yet.

Sam Hardy devlops the theme: 'The Interpol/Bonhams case could not possibly have involved the Islamic State. What happened?' Conflict Archaeology 14th July 2014.
how many other such misunderstandings have entered the public record? On such a hot topic, with so few sources and so little evidence, any incorrect information could have a negative impact on public understanding. Especially when intelligence services won’t share illicit antiquities data with their own states’ archaeological services, open-source data is critical for anti-trafficking action. 

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