November 23, 2015

Were Verona Civic Museum’s paintings stolen to fund terrorism, stolen to order to supply a collector, or just stolen?

Seventeen paintings have been stolen from a museum in Italy. They are theoretically worth €15 million/$16 million/£10.5 million though, whether they were stolen to be sold or stolen to be kept (then sold), any black market value may be far lower. The bigger question, right now, is why they were stolen…
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November 16, 2015

Harassment by proxy or not? I ‘can expect a knock on the door any time soon’.

I mentioned last week that cultural heritage campaigners were getting threatened and endangered by metal detectorists and others in the antiquities trade. The people who facilitate intimidation are demonstrably choosing to do so. Are some also wasting police time by reporting campaigners who have publicly discussed intimidation?
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November 9, 2015

tense being reviewed: antiquities looting to order in India

A month ago, Donna Yates, who teaches on the Postgraduate Certificate in Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime for the University of Glasgow, kindly reviewed my analysis of looting-to-order/theft-to-order of cultural property in (open access) Cogent Social Sciences. I’m now finally clawing my way back to electronic life and wanted to highlight it here.
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November 9, 2015

Archaeologists, concerned citizens and their families are harassed and threatened by metal detectorists in the UK

Violence against cultural heritage workers, and law enforcement agents who protect cultural property, is a grimly recognised problem in insecure places. And it is at its worst extreme in places such as Syria and Iraq. But it is not only a problem in those places. Threatening (and endangering) behaviour is a feature of the heritage “debate” in secure societies as well.
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October 28, 2015

Islamic State did not destroy things attached to people, it killed people attached to things

You can read either story. The relevant sections of the texts are both from the Associated Press. But the titles? In one newspaper, “Islamic State ‘blows up three captives tied to Roman columns’ in Palmyra”. In another, “ISIS blows up more Palmyra antiquities, with civilians attached“.
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October 27, 2015

A gang in Germany robbed assets from churches and schools to fund jihad in Syria

Yet another reason for quietness on the blog is that my computer is broken, but I just saw this story via Money Jihad and wanted to highlight it, not because it is evidence of significant trafficking of antiquities to finance the civil war in Syria, but because it is evidence of insignificant trafficking. As with the evidence of looting-to-order, it is important to remember that conflict antiquities trafficking involves petty theft as well as grand larceny, burglaries by fundraisers outside as well as plunder by combatants in the war zone.
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September 15, 2015

Is looting-to-order ‘just a myth’? Open-source analysis of theft-to-order of cultural property.

Last year, underwater archaeologist Peter Campbell and I blogged about evidence of antiquities looting to order. Over the year, I’ve conducted further research (on which Peter has kindly commented), and I’ve now published an open-source analysis of theft-to-order in (open access) Cogent Social Sciences.
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August 28, 2015

Note: Rim Turkmani hasn’t estimated IS income from Nabek as $36m, she’s noted previous reports in her LSE paper

When the Australian’s Jamie Walker said that, ‘in recent research for the London School of Economics, ­Syrian-born scientist Rim Turkmani estimated that Islamic State had earned $36 million off antiquities taken from a single site — the ancient Abyssinian monastery in Nabek’, he meant that Turkmani had tried ‘to estimate the income that ISIL makes from selling Syrian antiquities’ and concluded that it was ‘difficult’ (or, indeed, impossible, as she did not provide an estimate).

However, in her paper on ISIL, JAN and the War Economy in Syria, she also noted the Guardian’s previous report that ‘memory sticks obtained after an arrest of ISIL members in Iraq revealed that they made 36 million dollars from selling antiquities from only site in Al Nabek area in the Syria’. More than a year since their publication, the antiquities data on those memory sticks have still not been published or verified.

August 17, 2015

APAA appeal on archaeological work in Ukraine’s Russia-occupied/annexed Crimea

[I am still on jury duty. I wrote this on the weekend.]

Last year, I considered (and summarised) the possibilities for excavation in Crimea under annexation. On the 6th of August 2015, the All-Ukrainian Public Association of Archaeologists (APAA) issued an appeal to archaeologists of the Russian Federation. It has been published in Ukrainian, Russian and English and it is being discussed on Facebook. (I have corrected typos and clarified the translation of a few words or phrases.)
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August 17, 2015

Chersonesus: nationalist state annexation and internationalist professional resistance

[I am still on jury service. I wrote this on the weekend.]

Having annexed Crimea territorially on the 18th of March 2014 (a month after which, the Ukraine-licensed archaeologists at Chersonesus were attacked by gunmen), the Russian state redoubled its efforts to annex Crimea culturally. On the 4th of December 2014, President Vladmimir Putin repeated an age-old Russian nationalist historical narrative and insisted that it was ‘in Crimea, in ancient Chersonesus, or Korsun as the Russian chroniclers called it, that Prince Vladimir took baptism, before he baptized all of Rus’‘.
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