Sunday, 7 June 2015

Report of Finland Customs Seizure of "ISIL Loot" a Mistake

A few days ago there was a news item going the rounds that Finnish customs had seized two items on their way to "a collector in Russia" and that they were ISIL loot. I was suspicious that all the news items referred non-generically to a gaily coloured figural ceramic plaque as coming from "a mosque in Syria" but could not name it. I decided not to post the story here as it really seemed suspicious and to be stretching things. Now it seems I was right to do so. Sam Hardy has looked into it with his usual diligence and shown yet another over-eager news mess-up: 'Were the antiquities going to Russia from Syria or Iran or France?', Conflict Antiquities June 7, 2015. The item is not fifteenth century and now not believed to be from Syria at all.

UPDATE 8th June 2015
 Sam Hardy has turned up even more information:
A plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel? Yet again through AroValjus (from MTV), I learned that the object’s documentation recorded that it was from Syria. It is necessary to phrase this very carefully, but it is surely possible to pose questions. Was the plaque sold into the French market with an accurate description of the object and an accurate estimate of its value, then sold into the Russian market with an inaccurate description of the object and an inaccurate estimate of its value? Are many objects sold into the Russian market at triple the market value or do Syrian objects achieve a premium price?
I think it is possible to add another. What sort of people collect antiquities today thinking they are from Syria and what kind of dealers are supplying that market (I'd like to think a "niche market", but who knows?)

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