Friday 10 April 2020

British Museum's Notion of "Ad Hoc and Opportunist Looting in Syria"

According to the Guardian, St John Simpson, a senior curator and archaeologist in the British Museum’s Middle East department, said a recent German report claiming that more than 98% of items on some European markets did not have proven legal provenance was misleading.
Simpson said that in his role as an adviser for UK law enforcement on items that have been seized on exit or entry into the country, there has yet to be a proven case of a recently looted item from Syria being discovered in Britain [...] Simpson said in Syria there had been “ad-hoc and opportunistic looting” but the picture painted by the German foundation’s study was down to “rather simplistic” reporting.
Ah, so that's OK, Bloomsbury says the looting is not really all that significant in market terms because it can be dismissed as ad hoc and opportunistic. Like in Dura Europos he means.

Dura, ad hoc and opportunistic looting right across the cemeteries (left) and on an industrial scale right across the walled area of the city (right)

or Mari

or Apamea 

and all the rest of that "ad hoc and opportunistic" looting that takes place during any kind of social conflict...

If we look on ebay, we can see all sorts of stuff that falls into the range of material shown on the ICOM Red List for Syria: Tel Brak eye idols, Halaf figurines, Seleucid, Roman Umayyad, Abbasid and Ayyubid coins etc. Some of course are fake (which is not to say that they are not part of the the illicit trade of antiquities from Syria). These are antiquities from Syria on sale right now openly on eBay:
Tel Brak figure(s), Tel Halaf, Roman glass vessels, Roman ring, 
ceramic bird figurine, Islamic tile (a number of fakes here). 

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