Wednesday 26 February 2020

Australians Smuggle Artefacts out of Middle East

Two unnamed Australians (JA and FA) have been ­arrested by the Internal Security Forces ­Detachment at Beirut Inter­national Airport for allegedly trying to smuggle 60 ancient artefacts — including some that appear to be from Syria — out of Lebanon in their luggage (Mark Schliebs, 'Aussies held over Beirut haul of ancient artefacts' The Australian Feb 26, 2020)
They were arrested at Beirut’s international airport at the weekend, shortly before they were due to fly to Australia via Abu Dhabi. It is understood they are dual Australian/Lebanese nationals. A photo published by Leban­ese media outlets shows dozens of well-preserved artefacts the pair were allegedly trying to smuggle. Peter Edwell, a Macquarie University expert on the region’s ancient history, said it was difficult to assess the pieces from a single photograph but many of them looked genuine. He said some appeared to be from Syria, where looters have taken advantage of the civil war to excavate tombs. “There’s a couple there that look like they might come from up in northeastern Syria,” Dr Edwe­ll said. “There’s a particular site in the northeast part of Syria that those types of things come from. But it’s all a bit of guess.” [...] After examining a photograph of the objects, Dr Edwell said a group of oil lamps looked authentic and appeared to be from the Byzantine and Roman eras, but would only fetch up to $75 at auction. But some of the glass vessels photographed appeared to be Hellenic and would be more valuable. “They are rarer and more valuable, and they would probabl­y be reasonably in demand­,” he said. “These ones could be from the Hellenistic perio­d — pre-Roman. A lot of these things would probably have been found in tombs.” Dr Edwell estimated that if the artefacts were all genuine, they would likely only fetch up to $12,000 at auction. “It’s not high-end stuff,” he said. “There aren’t any coins in there. Coins are often the ones that fetch higher values.” He said the smuggling of ­antiquities was widespread across the region.
At the weekend, Lebanon’s state news agency reported ­that investigations were ongoing.

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