Sunday 23 November 2014

More on the Taibul tomb

Judith Weingarten has sent me a link to her post in the Zenobia: Empress of the East blog discussing the Taibul tomb and the looting of others ('Amta, Daughter of Yarha. Alas!', 28 September 2014)
As the war grinds on, illegal excavation and the looting of antiquities is running riot. Sometimes the thieves are soldiers in the Syrian army. Others are criminal gangs, crazed iconoclasts, or just desperate unemployed and hungry men. It hardly matters: the resulting destruction of Syria's heritage is the same. Amidst the gloom, however, are rare flashes of light, such as the lucky swoop [on August 26th 2014.] by the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums that recovered the anonymous bejewelled lady from Taibul's tomb (reported on the Palmyra History and Archaeology website, with photographs of recovered loot). The authorities must sometimes get tip-offs.  In just a single month  this year, they intercepted three different lots of looted Palmyran antiquities on their way to the international market (click for illustrations of the recovered objects): on 6 March 2014, 16 March 2014, and 30 March 2014.  April was much the same.  June and September were worse. And so it goes. These objects had all originated from known tomb groups or museum storerooms.  What is perhaps even more disturbing is the consignment seized on 19 June 2014, none of which was known to archaeologists, which means that illegal digging of unexcavated tombs is taking place around the city despite Palmyra being nominally under the control of the Syrian army.
As for the fate of the Taibul tomb, as she says: 
Can we doubt that all the funerary banquets, sarcophagi, high reliefs, and busts have also been cut from the walls -- and already crossed the border into Lebanon to be sold on to rich European, American, and Gulf collectors? 
But let us recall that dealers such as Alan Walker say they've never seen any of this stuff at their end of the market. Is it being carted off by fairies, vanishing into a time-warp, entering a parallel universe, or are dealers in denial looking in the wrong places?
Hat tip to Judith Weingarten

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