Friday, 17 July 2015

Abu Sayyaf Stash - "maybe all fakes"?

Writing on the Abu Sayyaf stash recently revealed by the US in Baghdad Museum, the Observer (Alanna Martinez, 'US Returns Looted Artifacts to Iraq—But Are Some Fakes?' 17th July 2015) quotes Donna Yates:

Some experts have even questioned the authenticity of the objects all together [sic]. An archaeologist in the criminology department at the University of Glasgow, Donna Yates, posted a side-by-side comparison of the world famous bust of Neferiti from the Egyptian Museum of Berlin to a small, stone version found in the raid to Twitter, writing: “some (maybe all) of the ‘Iraqi antiquities seized from ISIS in Syria’ are fakes.”
Dr Yates for some reason has long been an ardent opposer of the notion that ISIL are using antiquities sales as a source of revenue, continually stressing the "lack of proof". Fair enough. But now something has been presented by the US which purports to be that missing proof, she apparently immediately dismisses the material out of hand (and specifically addressed to the media) as "maybe all fakes". Of course, as a source of funds it makes no difference whether the antiquities are real or fake.

Sam Hardy was prompted by this to look at the issue of fakes in this assemblage and concludes that most of the material shown seems to be authentic material, despite several obvious misidentified objects in the presented assemblage of 'antiquities' which we saw on Wednesday. The question is rather whether they really had been picked up during an ongoing lightening strike in Abu Sayyaf's house, or whether this is an assemblage of items put together elsewhere to look like they had. What proof is there that the objects have the provenance assigned to them by the US authorities?

UPDATE 17th July 2015

Dr Yates has clarified
do I ever [sic] regret that "maybe all". Twitter bad for nuance. point was that some totally are, and can't see the others so maybe.
The others were shown in a video (referenced in his first post on the topic by Sam Hardy) released the day before and a video online (referenced by me) by the time Yates wrote. It is a shame that this misled at least one trusting journalist. This is the kind of loose talk we should be avoiding in discussing these issues, let's leave that up to the other side.

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