Thursday 18 December 2014

Site Looting in Syria, and where we go from here?

Larry Rothfield (Past for Sale) refers to the fuss kicked up by some commentators on "how much" some groups are earnning from looted artefacts as a "tempest in a teapot" and urges that  it not distract us from the main point, that there is hard evidence that market-driven looting of archaeological sites is rampant in Syria ('Numbers that matter: the AAAS Report on Site Looting in Syria, and where we go from here' The Punching Bag, 17th Dec 2014).
What's needed most now, the next step, is not more argument about how much, but more clarity about where and how looted materials move from site to various destinations, through what exchanges, with what participants.  That information in turn will help inform market design research by economists, by providing answers to such questions as:  Where, if anywhere, are the most fragile links in the supply-chains? Where can leverage be most effectively brought to bear (for instance, by the US on emirates that are providing freeports for transiting illicit antiquities and enabling their own wealthy citizens to amass collections of illicit antiquities)? How can the various tools of governmental and intergovernmental action be used not to make these markets more efficient but to disrupt, cool, or smother them?
Here, of course the collaboration of those involved in the antiquities trade would be of great help. Do they want to actually provide it?

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