Monday 6 April 2020

ILLICID Report: Alarming Statistics

A recent German report spells out the problem, but in the current form of the international antiqities market, the solution might not be that straightforward (Naomi Rea,  'almost 98 Percent of ‘Eastern Mediterranean’ Antiquities Sold in Germany Are of Questionable Origin, a New Report Has Found', ArtNet News April 6, 2020). Obviously, there need to be fundamental changes in the way this trade operates.
Germany is an international hotspot for trafficking illegal antiquities from places like Syria and Iraq, according to a damning new report. Released by the German Federal Cultural Foundation in March, the investigation looked at the more than 6,000 antiquities from the Eastern Mediterranean offered for sale in Germany over a three-year period. It found that a mere 2.1 percent had proven legal provenance. [...] A task force made up of researchers from different German institutions investigated the issue between 2015 and 2018 as part of the “ILLICID project, funded in part by the UN and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. During the course of their research, the experts found objects from Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Cyprus were on sale despite unverifiable provenance and the absence of legal export documentation. Indeed, more than half (56.3 percent) of the artifacts analyzed could not be authenticated at all.
It is claimed that this is of importance not because looting destroys archaeological sites, but "the funds from black market antiquities often make their way back to terrorist organizations" (though that word "terrorist" is not defined).
Markus Hilgert, head of the “ILLICID“ project and general secretary of the German Federal Cultural Foundation, says in a statement that it is “alarming” that almost 40 percent of the archeological cultural goods that were investigated likely came from Iraq and Syria “despite the strict import, export and trade restrictions” imposed on those countries by EU regulations, not to mention other laws that have prohibited the export of archeological assets from those states since 1869. After examining 2,387 antiquities highly likely to have originated in Iraq and Syria, the new report discovered only 0.4 percent of the objects originating from Iraq and only 9.6 percent of the objects originating from Syria were found to be on the German market legally. 
The report makes a series of recommendations, discussed in the post below.

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