Monday, 6 May 2013

"Syrians Loot Roman Treasures to Buy Guns"

Hala Jaber and George Arbuthnott are reporting (" Syrians loot Roman treasures to buy guns" Sunday Times 5 May 2013) that archaeological artefacts dating back nearly two millennia have been plundered from a world-renowned site in Syria and are being sold on the black market in Lebanon.
An undercover reporter was offered dozens of relics including 2nd-century Roman busts worth up to £1.4m by a dealer on the outskirts of Beirut. The items have been verified by five experts, including specialists from Unesco and the British Museum. Experts say the busts came from the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, a Unesco world heritage site in central Syria. Videos posted online last summer appear to show similar sculptures loaded on to the back of a pick-up truck and displayed for the camera by men wearing military uniforms. Other items offered to the reporter, who was posing as an art dealer seeking Syrian artefacts, include Roman pillar carvings valued at £384,000 and £20,000-worth of 3rd-century glass vessels.
According to the reporters "a thriving black market is offering 2,000-year-old treasures to foreign buyers at a fraction of their value", and these objects are being sold to "buy guns". As I said I spent most of yesterday trying to look for the evidence of the scale of looting of archaeological sites right across the country inasfar as allowed by the resources offered by Google Earth (obviously a source of information with limitations). It seems to me that there is a lot of generalising going on when we talk about looting like this. I presume Jaber and Arbuthnott are suggesting this "black market" operates in Syria.  .

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