April 20, 2015

A medieval ivory icon disappeared during war in Georgia, ‘miraculously reappeared at Christie’s’ in Switzerland

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) judged that the case constituted (or symbolised) one of the ‘basic events’ of war and peace in the Caucasus at the time. I learned of it through the Museum Security Network (MSN).
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April 17, 2015

The WCO did not claim to have evidence that church icons had been stolen in Kosovo and sold to finance terrorism

I checked the report with the World Customs Organisation and the WCO told me that it had not claimed to have evidence of a trade in conflict antiquities from the unrest in Kosovo in 2004. At the same time, particularly where there is an established link between organised crime (such as heroin trafficking) and paramilitary violence, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

April 15, 2015

Nimrud under attack: an analysis of destruction by Simone Mühl

A member of the monitoring and documentation group for Endangered Heritage Sites in Iraq, Simone Mühl, has conducted an excellent analysis of the destruction at Nimrud. She drew on photos of the Museum of Nimrud under Islamic State occupation (through Milad Walid Kattan in a monitoring and documentation group for Monuments of Mosul in Danger), video frames from the propaganda, (now open-access) archives of Nimrud Photos and Topo[graphic] Survey and other open-source data; added historical information; and identified further evidence of the manipulation of the material in the video.

April 13, 2015

The inexact science of exact numbers: does anyone know how many archaeological sites have been looted in Syria?

I’m still working on some of the posts that I’d planned to publish before this one, but I’m not going to hold it back any longer.
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April 12, 2015

Islamic State B-movie of attack on Nimrud

I woke up to messages from all over the place. So, “thanks” to all of the bearers of bad news (and to Allison Cuneo @aecuneo and @oivej, who pointed out other Arabic-language material). The Islamic State has released yet another video. Following its action B movies from Mosul Museum and the Nergal Gate Museum at Nineveh (thoroughly assessed by Christopher Jones) and Hatra (again assessed by Christopher Jones), it’s released a video of its attack on Nimrud.
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April 8, 2015

Will Cyprus sell repatriated antiquities at auction? No.

Will it buy looted antiquities at auction in order to repatriate them? Yes.
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April 8, 2015

The WCO did not claim to have evidence that church icons had been stolen in Kosovo and sold to finance terrorism

In comments that have been reported [some of which have been misreported] by the Serbian newspaper Evening News (Večernje Novosti), and translated by the broadcaster B92, a representative of the World Customs Organisation (WCO) has revealed the findings of an international operation: ‘Church icons [that were] stolen in Kosovo [were] sold to finance terrorism. [Update (16th April 2015): the officer has been kind enough to correct the report for me.]
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April 7, 2015

Civilians may have been kidnapped and exchanged for arrested paramilitary antiquities looters in Syria

In a scary (and strange) turn of events, civilians from Afrin/Efrin – a town and canton in Rojava, the autonomous region of Western Kurdistan (Rojavayê Kurdistanê) in north-western Syria – appear to have been kidnapped and released in return for paramilitary antiquities looters [or, rather, antiquities-looting paramilitaries].
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April 4, 2015

The Islamic State has used sledgehammers, pick axes and Kalashnikov rifles to smash statues and iconic architecture at Hatra

Yesterday – nearly a month after the event – the Tigris Mandate of the Islamic State uploaded a video of its iconoclasm at Hatra to YouTube (which I saw via Baghdad’s Kassakhoon @kassakhoon, via Sinan Salaheddin @sinansm). They used sledgehammers, pick axes and Kalashnikov rifles to smash statues and iconic architecture. However, there is no evidence that the archaeological site itself was ‘destroyed‘ (as the title and text of that report make clear).

[Update: Again, Christopher Jones has assessed the damage and questioned the production of the propaganda video.]

March 26, 2015

Iraqi antiquities ‘depend on the Iraqi people, and the Iraqi people need us more’ (Eleanor Robson)

I don’t normally do link posts, but Eleanor Robson has considered Modern War, Ancient Casualties in the Times Literary Supplement:

Museums have been ransacked, libraries torched, universities turned into terrorist enclaves. The curators and librarians of Mosul, the conservators and researchers, the archaeologists and site guards, are in fear of their lives, if not dead or already fled. This is where the international community needs to offer its first wave of help once ISIS have been disposed of. Physical plant, research equipment, retraining, support of many practical kinds: all will be desperately needed. The fact is that ancient stones can wait, as they have waited for millennia; they depend on the Iraqi people, and the Iraqi people need us more.

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