Thursday 16 October 2014

The New Yorker Writes on ISIL Looting in Syria

Brian Daniels, the director of research at the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, "and others" are quoted in the New Yorker saying:
that ISIS, which controls large parts of both countries, appears to be doing much—although not all—of the digging. Hanson points to three Syrian sites, Apamea, Dura-Europos, and Raqqa, as places that have been particularly hard hit. Archaeological looting is common throughout the world, from Native American sites in the Southwest to jungle palaces in Cambodia, but the pillage in Iraq and Syria is singular in its invasiveness. “They just break the places open,” the Syrian archaeologist Amr Al-Azm, a professor at Shawnee State University, in Ohio, who lived and worked in Syria for many years, told me.

In Iraq, looting has been a serious problem for parts of the past decade. During a particularly violent period roughly between 2003 and 2006, organized looters took advantage of the chaos to pilfer many sites, especially ones in southern Iraq. But, according to Hanson, who is cataloguing the looting in both countries, most of the earlier activity was hand-digging rather than the bulldozing she’s seen from ISIS. In much of Iraq and Syria, gathering information about these enterprises is difficult and dangerous. As with other lucrative illegal enterprises, those involved don’t take interference lightly.
Flippant comments on a distant and lobbyist's disreputable and irresponsible blog financed by two antiquities dealers' associations which reduce the issues to a series of brainless ad hominems (like "Paul Barford, for instance, could meet ISIS rebels (sic) face-to-face") really do nothing to assuage doubts that antiquities dealers are even the slightest bit worried about any of this. They suggest it's nothing to do with them. The rest of us however feel it is very much to do with them and their dismissive and taunting approach simply casts the whole industry further into disrepute. Still, it is good that the US media are paying a lot of attention to this, bringing the matter of the no-questions-asked market in antiquities and its effects further into the public domain.
Once the artifacts are out of the ground, they’re sold by [...] dealers. Daniels said that many of the looted items, which include gold and silver coins, mosaics, figurines, jewelry, cylinder seals, and tablets, end up for sale in towns near the Turkish-Syrian border. Because the market is largely hidden, it’s not clear how much ISIS and other groups are making. Over all, the market for Near East antiquities is very hot. The high end is astronomical: in 2007, a five-thousand-year-old Mesopotamian lion sculpture, three inches tall and made from limestone, was auctioned in New York for fifty-seven million dollars. Obviously, most pieces are worth much less than that, but finding a dozen or two cylinder seals—a relatively common find that can sell for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars each, depending on condition and craftsmanship—can make a few weeks of digging quite profitable.
Daniels said that it appears that ISIS has ramped up its looting over the past few weeks: in areas that aren’t being targeted by air strikes, the group has started more excavations and are taking more control over the work, and the profits. Daniels admits that right now, there’s not much that he, or his allies in Iraq and Syria, can do to stop the looting.
While we are obviously unable to affect what is happening on the ground within the occupied areas, we can act in the surrounding areas to make it more difficult to profit from the sale of this illicit material. Of course that is precisely what the lobbyists for the antiquities dealers association want to prevent happening. They want to carry on "business as usual" regardless of whether they are helping or hindering this or that militant or criminal group, and they clearly resent others from expressing their opinion on that: "Paul Barford, for instance, could meet ISIS rebels face-to-face" .

David Kohn, 'ISIS’s Looting Campaign' The New Yorker October 14, 2014


Dorothy King said...

Oy. He's funded by one extreme group which no dealer I know wants anything to do with. Neither it nor he represent the views of any dealer I know or have met (I don't count the guy whom I just got arrested as a dealer - he's a looter). Anyway to claim they represent dealers or collectors is like claiming that ISIS represents Muslims. Or Hitler represents Jews.

Paul Barford said...

Well, this particular nauseating lobbyist projects a very damaging image of the profession he claims to represent (and defend). He banned me from commenting on his blog, and then has proceeded to use it as the vehicle for an unsavoury array of personal comments about me from the dregs of the metal detecting hobby and a sock puppet pretending to be a member of the Houghton family. Just take a good look at this behaviour and draw your own conclusions.

Congratulations on getting a looter arrested, the problem is there are many more where that one came from.

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.