Wednesday, 8 March 2017

"Ancient book stolen in Syria seized in Turkey"

What looked to them to be an ancient book stolen from a museum was seized by law enforcement officers in the northwestern province of Bursa ( 'Ancient book stolen in Syria seized in Turkey' Hurriyet Daily News  March/08/2017)
The gazelle skin book, embroidered in gold, includes the figures of Mary, Jesus, animals, crosses and other writings. Six people were detained after trying to sell the book, which has been handed over to the Bursa Museum. The operation to seize the book and detain the suspects was launched last week when the gendarmerie received a tip that a 17-page book believed to have been stolen from a museum in Syria was being brought to Bursa to sell on the internet. A surveillance operation was launched against the suspects on the order of prosecutors, and the vehicle carrying the suspects was stopped at a gas station on the Istanbul-Bursa highway on March 7. A Syrian man, along with four Turkish citizens, were detained on charges of smuggling artifacts. 
The seized items
The problem is that the book is one of a series of not-very-clever fakes circulating on this market which Sam Hardy was blogging about last year. They are characterised by several random images and the characteristic chemical treatment intended to simulate ageing. As Sam says  (Fake Christian manuscript, possibly from Syria, in Turkey, seized from Syrian and Turkish traffickers):
There has long been a cottage industry of forged bibles and other such texts from south-eastern Turkey and elsewhere in the region, which are fed into an illicit market that is too large to be sated with the supply of stolen cultural property. Since the outbreak of the conflict(s) in Syria and Iraq, that market has only grown, augmented by collectors who make the excuse that they are conducting “rescue-by-purchase”, as well as by collectors who specifically target crisis antiquities and conflict antiquities. They target such loot because it demonstrates the rarity of the collection and the (both financial and sociopolitical) power of the collector… when the knowingly crisis-exploiting and/or conflict-financing collector is competent enough to buy the real thing, instead of a counterfeit copy. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this everyday case is the everyday use of the internet. And that is only interesting insofar as it reaffirms just how boringly everyday online trafficking of both antiquities and forgeries is.
Vignette: Where Bursa is.

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