Friday, 12 December 2014

Germany seeks to target stolen antiquities

Another Deutsche Welle report: Germany to crack down on antiquity theft by Matthias von Hein (actually not theft but fencing).


"These items come from Northern Iraq, from Mosul", and how does he know that? "Because this piece for instance, it says in cuneiform that it comes from the palace of Salam Nasar III, he lived in what is now Mosul".

Does crime pay? Certainly it does when no one is there to turn criminals in. That's particularly true when the authorities cannot even determine how much illegal activity is taking place, as is often the case with trade in drugs, weapons and - lately of particular interest - ancient artifacts. But in contrast to the drug or arms trade, there has been less public discussion on the topic of illegal dealing in cultural goods. In Germany, that's reflected in oversight agencies' staffing decisions. The Federal Criminal Police Office has just three officials working in the area of cultural artifacts. Recently, though, reports have piled up concerning the systematic looting of the goods in question, particularly in Middle Eastern countries.  [...]  A proposed law in Germany, believed to be a key arena for trade in stolen antiquities, might cut into art dealers' profits by outlawing a lax approach with the provenance of the pieces in question. Germany's cultural affairs minister, Monika Grütters, backs a law stipulating that artifacts could be bought and sold in the future only with clear documentation on proof of origin and export licensing from the country in which the objects were housed. [...] Markus Hilgert, director of Berlin's Near East Museum [...] a specialist in ancient Mesopotamia and related cultures, argues in favor of more awareness of these issues, making comparisons with campaigns to protect endangered species. "The trade in illegal cultural artifacts must be outlawed and made unattractive - just as no one wants to wear a fur made from baby seals any more." 

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