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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July 31, 2015

‘The smuggler had been smoking a cigarette when he pulled into an ISIS checkpoint’

When the Islamic State conquered Palmyra, ‘the world recoiled in horror, fearing [its] destruction’. The week after, Buzzfeed’s Mike Giglio ‘sat in a sunlit living room near the border with a looter from Palmyra who had spent much of the last 15 years robbing grave sites there’, and secured evidence for the events and processes that influence the flow of antiquities from vulnerable communities in Syria and Iraq to exploitative markets in the West.
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July 30, 2015

Buzzfeed’s Mike Giglio’s been in Turkey’s borderlands after Syria’s looted antiquities

‘Over the course of a month’, Buzzfeed’s Mike Giglio ‘traveled along Turkey’s 565-mile-long border with Syria to meet more than a dozen people involved in this illegal trade, from the grave robbers and excavators who steal the artifacts to the middlemen and dealers who sell them.’

I couldn’t believe it when I spotted the matches for the antiquities from Palmyra, but Mark Altaweel, Michael Danti and Amr al-Azm confirmed it. I’ll write that update (to this post) tonight…

July 28, 2015

AKP-branded ‘plastic bullets’, ‘rubber bullets’ were planted election gimmicks

On Sunday, as the struggles of left-wingers, liberals and Kurdish confederalists versus right-wingers, conservatives and Turkish nationalists in Turkey grew ever more intertwined with the conflict of secularists and Kurdish confederalists versus Islamists in Syria, Fahrettin @kurekli_batur (now @yurekli_batur) tweeted a photo of: ‘Plastic bullets that have been shot in Gazi [neighbourhood, Istanbul]. I took the photo myself. It’s not photoshopped, etc. [Gazi’de attıkları plastik mermi. Fotoyu kendim çektim fotoşop filan değil.]’ Indeed, it was not photoshopped. But what was it?
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July 17, 2015

Islamic State archaeology book club reading list – deliberately acquired and transported in conflict

Last month, Mehmet Nuri Ekinci reported that Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) had seized equipment from Turkish Islamic State fighters in Syria; @hasavrat noticed that they had confiscated a book that documented ancient coins; and I asked if anyone recognised it. Ute Wartenberg Kagan did – and it makes grim reading.
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July 17, 2015

Reassessing the balance of antiquities and forgeries in Abu Sayyaf’s stash

Someone kindly prompted me to reconsider the balance of antiquities and fakes in Abu Sayyaf’s stash and I thought it might be worth trying to count some of the sets of objects on display. I didn’t want to do it before, because I don’t trust my eye for this material, but the fakes here appear to be so poor that they largely distinguish themselves.

I fear that unguided journalists’ professional effort to capture the variety of objects may have incidentally foregrounded the fakes, of which there is a far greater variety than there is of coins and beads. And archaeologists and criminologists (myself included), then, focused on the outliers instead of the the overwhelming majority of objects. It appears that most of Abu Sayyaf’s illicit antiquities were ancient coins.

[I’m working on a huge update based on the U.S. State Department Cultural Heritage Center’s summary and photo gallery of the ISIL leader’s loot.]
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July 16, 2015

Why don’t dealers in London keep records as detailed as traffickers in Deir ez-Zor?

Thanks to Esther Saoub and Paul Barford amongst others, there have been many updates to the ‘first material proof‘ that Islamic State is trafficking antiquities.

In a further follow-up, I’ve reassessed the balance of antiquities and forgeries. I believe that most of Abu Sayyaf’s stash comprised ancient coins. [I’m working on a huge update based on the U.S. State Department Cultural Heritage Center’s summary and photo gallery of the ISIL leader’s loot.]
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