Saturday, 9 January 2021

Covid-19 pandemic sees sharp rise in looting of antiquities in Iraq

Video by Lucile Wassermann and Jack Hewson 6 min  Covid-19 pandemic sees sharp rise in looting of antiquities in Iraq

In Iraq, the looting of artefacts has been on the rise since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to the coronavirus, few tourists or foreign archaeologists now visit historical sites. As a result, many of these areas are left unguarded, at the mercy of looters. FRANCE 24's Iraq correspondents spent time with those involved in the uphill struggle against this illicit trade. 

No doubt, there will be many buyers willing to take items off dealers' hands , even if there's no paperwork showing legal excavation or export. In the UK for example, Timeline Auctions managed to shift 520  antiquities coyly described as "Western Asiatic" in November, despite the fact very few of them had any kind of paperwork mentioned in the descriptions in the sales offer. In September it was 383, in June it was 531. In February they had 474, and in November 2019, along with the "faked Doris" mosaic, they had another 585. Where is all this stuff coming from? In 2020, this one firm shifted 1908 "Western Asiatic" (mostly Mesopotamian)  items claiming that all of them came from old collections of legally-obtained artefacts. That's pretty odd, because in fact those old collections were pretty thin on the ground from the 1940s and 1950s, and by the time this material became more collectable, laws were in place to curb the export of such items (the two things going together of course). So where are TimeLine Auctions of Harwich getting this material from?  It does not grow on trees. 



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