Thursday 16 July 2015

The Whole Point of No-questions-asked and "Ooops-somebody's-lost-the-paperwork' Antiquities Trading.

The numbers given in various accounts of the Abu Sayyaf antiquities stash vary wildly, the first account said 'seventy' artefacts were repatriated (the reference was to packets of artefacts) then 400, 500 and the US Department of State said 750, but the page that the tweet links to says "700". What a mess. Sam Hardy attempted to count them for himself ('Reassessing the balance of antiquities and forgeries in Abu Sayyaf’s stash'). He justifies this:
I fear that unguided journalists’ professional effort to capture the variety of objects may have incidentally foregrounded the fakes, of which there is a far greater variety than there is of coins and beads. And archaeologists and criminologists (myself included), then, focused on the outliers instead of the the overwhelming majority of objects. It appears that most of Abu Sayyaf’s illicit antiquities were ancient coins.
He counted "at least 236 coins" in the video frames, and concludes that "the early Islamic coins alone must have constituted the majority of the antiquities in Abu Sayyaf’s stash".
But these counts show that most of Abu Sayyaf’s stash consisted of genuine, highly-portable antiquities (which could have been transported both by the Islamic State and by U.S. commandos in one small container). Once these coins had been uploaded to eBay or or VCoins or Facebook, or laid out in a dealership in Istanbul or London or New York, how would dealers and collectors have distinguished them from so many others?
And that is the whole point of no-questions-asked and "Ooops-somebody's-lost-the-paperwork' antiquities trading. Got it in one.

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