Thursday 11 June 2015

Facebook Gets Jittery About Middle Eastern 'Antiquities'

According to Frances Martel ('Report: Priceless Syrian Antiques Stolen by ISIS Surface for Sale at Facebook ‘Stores’...' Breitbart 11 Jun 2015):
Facebook has begun the arduous work of shutting down Arabic-language pages created for selling ancient Syrian artifacts ransacked from areas controlled by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS). The sale of priceless antiques has become a cornerstone of the ISIS economy, as demand skyrockets for the contents of looted museums, temples, and ruins. D.C.-based journalist Zaid Benjamin has posted [...] a number of screenshots allegedly showing Facebook pages, most already taken down, promising the sale of a variety of ancient items–from statuettes to coins and manuscripts.
Some of them were also published on the Argentine website Infobae. It has to be said that most of the photos posted by Mr Benjamin here are of fakes (a coiney can put me right, but I am not convinced that the gold coin top right is not what it seems):

More fakes (not sure about the jewellery, the intaglio is classic-bad). There are some more fakes here too.  No idea about this one picked out by Mr Benjamin, it's an awful photo. My gut feeling is it is probably not an antiquity, but if that's the case, I'd love to know how the corrosion was done.

"Coins and small statues are the most valuable, experts told the the International Business Times IB Times, because they are easily smuggled in and out of countries, and are found in larger amounts".

There seems to be a pattern emerging here. There are dozens of journalists looking for Syrian and Iraqi looted artefacts, each of us working to raise public awareness of these issues has already been approached by a number of them, eager all of them to be pointed to where one can find these things on open sale, apart from Raqqa. Yet each time one of them is set up with a meeting by a 'fixer' or finds something on the website it is a case of wishful thinking and wrong conclusions. Either the item cannot be linked with ISIL (the Apamea coins the Times made the mistake of identifying as ISIL loot, the stela an unfortunate lady in UNESCO tried to kid us was delivered to a London auction house by ISIL) or more frequently what is triumphantly shown as "antiquities looted by ISIL" are pretty obviously fakes of varying degrees of sophistication (and others are dubious Muscarella-Lie-Became-Great simulacra). Now what's going on? Archaeological sites are riddled with pits (systematic pit-digging, not "random holes in the sand" of one lobbyist), I do not think there are many who would doubt why they were dug. But actually putting a finger on whether they should be surfacing on the market, where and when, is another matter. Or are the Black Hat middlemen and dealers simply very good (practiced) at covering their tracks?

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