Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Coins Among Objects Smuggled from Egypt to Jordan

The people of Egypt have recovered 340 stolen artifacts that were smuggled to Jordan in a shipment of coal in 2015. The artefacts reportedly included statues, coins, jewellery and ornaments dating back to Greco-Roman and Ptolemaic Egypt.
According to Shaaban Abdel Gawad, the chief of the Department for the Repatriation of Artifacts at the Antiquities Ministry, a large collection of Ptolemaic coins, a large alabaster bust of Alexander the Great and several limestone statues were among the recovered artifacts. The ministry issued an official statement on Monday which reported that late last year the antiquities were seized by Jordanian customs officials in the Red Sea port of Aqaba. The statement claims these ancient artifacts were stolen and then smuggled out of the country in a shipping container filled with coal from Egypt’s Red Sea port of Nuweiba. In recent months officials from Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry worked closely with Jordanian police to repatriate the objects, which were shipped from Jordan and arrived in Egypt on Sunday night. It is unclear if thy were stolen from Egyptian museums, or were illegally excavated. The ministry added that in 2015 Egypt and Jordan signed a joint cooperation agreement to combat the illegal trade of artifacts, and collaborate on the recovery of stolen cultural works
This is the sordid reality, coins smuggled in truckloads of other items to a second country where they then come on the international  market with no indication where they had originally been taken from:

This is what lies behind the attempts of lobbyists for trade associations like the IAPN and PNG to persuade that the documentation of such movements should not be subject to scrutiny because (a) member dealers do not maintain such documentation as a matter of course (its a hindrance to their 'business practices', apparently) and (b) 'ancient coins travelled widely' in the past making it unclear in the case of loose decontextualised ones on the market where they had originally been found and which state would actually have a claim to them if that information was known (which it is not because the dealers have not kept any documentation allowing that to be traced). That's what we call laundering, and it is nothing that any proper professional association should be condoning, let alone actively campaigning to ensure its continuance.

Here is a shipment of artefacts found in a shipment of cheese from the same port on its way to Jordan too. In the space of time between the one and the other seizure, how many other smuggled loads containing paperless antiquities made it through an Egyptian port to arrive on the international antiquities market?

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