Friday 25 July 2014

Save Syrian Antiquities

Dr. Amr Al-Azm (Currently Associate Professor of Middle East History, Shawnee University USA, Professor at the University of Damascus (1998-2006), Department of Antiquities and Museums in Syria (1999-2004)) has started an appeal:
Treasures from our museums and ancient cities in Syria are being looted and destroyed, falling victim to the war's blind aggression. My former archeology students are working diligently and risking their lives to protect our country’s cultural heritage. It’s important that our heritage is preserved, not only for its intrinsic beauty and historical value, but also because it helps us reconstruct Syrian identity. Now, the market for stolen artefacts is in the millions, but one important thing can make a difference. The UN must ban the trade in Syrian artefacts. So far they have ignored numerous calls to push through a resolution as they did in the past to protect Iraq’s heritage, but there’s something much larger at stake now that should get them to act. Looting Syria’s history is big business and the extremist group known as ISIS have added millions of dollars to their war chest because of it. Syrians are now not only watching their history being torn down and sold to foreign buyers, but they’re having that money turned against them in the form of more weapons.

Now click on V-Coins and enter in terms such as Syria, Homs, Aleppo, Damascus. You'll find sellers there selling artefacts of Syrian origin (yes they could have been found outside the country, but let's look at the evidence of where they were last documented as being - in the case of many of them with discarded or obscured collecting histories, that is the place where they were made). Now find one, just one, seller who shows any inclination whatsoever to show (or even claim) that they were obtained licitly before the present conflict started. I think it will soon become very obvious that dealers on the so-called "ethical alternative to eBay" really do not give a tinker's about telling their clients they have kosher stuff. For collectors too, it obviously in reality is of next-to-zero importance. This is the real origin of the problem. I'd prefer to talk of regulating the trade, rather than banning it, but is is quite clear that there is no reasoning with those commercially involved, they will oppose any form of regulation and try to get round it (vide the ACCG and the MOUs). Banning seems the only starting point for sorting this mess out which has any hope of success.

Vingnette: Moral compass, have all antiquity collectors got one? 

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