Saturday 6 July 2013

Campbell on Middle Eastern Antiquities Trade Networks

Peter Campbell ("How Crime, Corruption, and Murder Are Hidden in the Elusive Black Market Stages of Antiquities Trafficking", Archaeology Blog July 4, 2013) describes the trafficking of Afghan antiquities summarising his longer account (Page 121):
“Subsistence diggers, local citizens that turn to looting due to economic hardship, are the primary looters… Subsistence diggers sell artifacts to intermediaries who visit villages or archaeological sites. The primary exit for Afghan antiquities appears to be Pakistan…. [a] popular [route] among smugglers. Narcotics smugglers are known to cross easily into Pakistan at the unmanned border crossing at Baramcha… In her analysis of the opium trade, Gretchen Peters details how these organized smuggling groups operate along the Afghan-Pakistani border, engaging in any profitable enterprise including trafficking of narcotics, arms, humans, antiquities, and other commodities, as well as crimes including kidnapping and theft.
Baramchah is a little town [29°26'8.78"N  64° 2'22.64"E ] in a bend in the border in the middle of the Chagai Hills. To get to it you have to cross the Dasht-e Margo (Desert of Death). 

Once in Pakistan, antiquities are sold in border towns and transported to major cities. Commercial airlines and ships transport the artifacts to cities like Sharjah or Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which has grown into the region’s primary transit country… [in addition], The Afghan Transit Trade Agreement allows for a massive quantity of good to pass to Sharjah from Afghan ports with little oversight. [...] Antiquities are smuggled hidden in commonplace items like furniture, in falsified cargo manifests, or in false compartments. [...] Upon arrival in Sharjah, antiquities are purchased by individuals with connections abroad, who collaborate with corrupt customs officials in order to export them.
Campbell stresses the key significance of the Gulf states in today's global antiquities market:
United Arab Emirates is an arterial route for antiquities leaving the region for market countries. Illicit antiquities from the entire region, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Azerbaijan, and Pakistan, as well as countries outside the immediate area like Turkey, are sent to Sharjah before being sent internationally…
From the Gulf ports, "the shipments head toward other transit countries like Switzerland and market countries like Germany, UK, and US".
Arriving in Europe, antiquities have passed through many hands, but now enter the same established routes detailed in the Medici case and other examples. Repatriated artifacts indicate travel from Switzerland and Germany to market countries like United Kingdom and Belgium”  [...]
So, by the time an object appears in a "reputable" dealer's catalogue, it has passed through many disreputable hands. But the dealer is not gong to tell the buyer that, in fact the dealer was probably careful not to ask any questions which would produce answers he'd prefer not to hear.

Find the full article here: The Illicit Antiquities Trade as a Transnational Criminal Network: Characterizing and Anticipating Trafficking of Cultural Heritage, International Journal of Cultural Property, 2013, 20 113-153.

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