Friday 15 November 2013

The Development of the Israeli Antiqities Trade

Nir Hasson, 'Antiquities battle pits Old City merchants against inspectors' Haaretz 14th November 2013.
The antiquities trade has a shady history in Israel. Even during the Ottoman Turkish period, which ended with World War I, antiquities dealers operated in the country. Along with legitimate business people, a black market of forgeries and genuine but looted objects grew up. The British Mandatory government that succeeded the Turks regulated the industry and a sizeable number of the dealers today are the third generation of families who were granted licenses by the British. The state’s approach to the antiquities dealers underwent a total change beginning in 1978, when a law was passed making all ancient objects discovered in Israel from then onwards state property. The trade in newly-discovered antiquities was henceforth equivalent to the trade in stolen goods. Ever since, the state has been trying to rein in the antiquity merchants. In recent years, the law and official oversight of the dealers have become stricter. The merchants continue to enjoy a thriving business, with both casual foreign tourists and more serious antiquities collectors, but they don’t have a good reputation.
But still we know a couple of US dealers who see no problem with buying their stuff and selling it on. Where does the stuff come from?

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