Saturday, 3 July 2021

Looters flout Facebook ban to sell ancient artefacts

Facebook has banned the sale of antiquities on its platforms, but ‘monuments for sale’ groups continue to thrive (Louise Callaghan, 'Looters flout Facebook ban to sell ancient artefacts' The Sunday Times Saturday July 03 2021)
A year ago, with great fanfare, Facebook banned the sale of ancient artefacts on its platforms. Yet campaigners such as the Athar Project, a US-based organisation that monitors the trade in illegal antiquities, say the ban has been ineffective and the problem is getting worse. “We’ve seen virtually no enforcement of that policy,” said Katie Paul, the co-director of the Athar Project. “In fact, the trade has grown, particularly during the pandemic.” A simple search on the platform in English or Arabic turns up thousands of items advertised in groups with names such as “monuments for sale”. Many members of these groups, and at least one of the administrators, are based in the UK, The Sunday Times has found. The Athar Project said that it was monitoring more than 100 groups in the Middle East — one with nearly half a million members. [...] “Unfortunately we’re seeing a continuous and steady flow of materials from conflict zones like Libya, Syria and Yemen being offered for sale on the platform,” she said. “They’re just being openly trafficked.” [...] In the groups, looters based everywhere from Syria and Egypt to Myanmar, India and the Balkans buy, sell and swap tips on how to find and steal artefacts. “It’s such a difficult crime to prosecute that it’s very easy to operate publicly,” said Sam Hardy, a postdoctoral research fellow in cultural heritage and conflict at the Norwegian Institute in Rome, part of the University of Oslo. [...] Many of the artefacts on sale were fake, but others, according to archaeologists involved in stopping the trade, were real.
"Archaeologists involved in stopping the trade" in the UK can probably be counted on the fingers of two hands. But in the UK, we are proudly told, there are 6000 archaeologists. What are they doing? ATHAR is based in the US. The eaquivalent organization in the UK is called, um... ummm...

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