February 26, 2015

Islamic State has toppled, sledgehammered and jackhammered (drilled out) artefacts in Mosul Museum and at Nineveh

It is notable that the Islamic State released this propaganda, to assert their religious purity through their commitment to cultural destruction, immediately after the were exposed for making a deal with Turkey and not destroying Suleyman Shah’s tomb.

Last June, it was rumoured and mistakenly reported that the Islamic State had ‘destroyed ancient masterpieces, including the rare Assyrian winged bull’ at Nineveh Museum. This time, they’ve done it – at Mosul Museum and the Nergal Gate to Nineveh. You can stream or download the mp4 (or watch it on YouTube/YouTube archive).

But if, like other sensible people, you don’t want to boost the web traffic to their pornography of violence – which they try to advertise as Islamic although they also preserve “heretical”, “idolatrous” things as long as they profit from them – I’ve taken screenshots from the video for verification and analysis. Christopher Jones, at the Gates of Nineveh, will have historically-informed coverage.
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February 23, 2015

Suleyman Shah’s tomb exhumed, mausoleum pre-emptively destroyed, Syrian territory annexed by Turkey?

It’s difficult to headline or even strapline the story of these events, but Turkey has extracted sarcophagi and other artefacts from a Turkish exclave that is surrounded by Islamic State-held Syrian territory, and apparently deliberately destroyed the mausoleum that housed the tombs. What, you might justifiably ask, the fuck is going on?
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February 13, 2015

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2199: ban on wartime-exported antiquities from Syria and Iraq

UNESCO has published the text of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2199.(1) As expected, it prohibits any international trade in Syrian antiquities that have been exported since the 15th of March 2011. It also reaffirms its prohibition of any international trade in Iraqi antiquities that have been exported since the 6th of August 1990 (which certainly suggests that this legislation will not suffice on its own).
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February 9, 2015

Tomb raiders and the profits of doom

Lask week, the World Today published an article on the conflict antiquities trade by me and Sasan Aghlani (@Aghlani), a Research Assistant in International Security at Chatham House and PhD student in Politics and International Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He’s written elsewhere on the role of violence against religious property in conflict (the power of sacred geography in Iraq). Apart from giving it the superlative title, the World Today has kindly given us permission to share the fully-sourced text here. (Sources were provided for fact-checking during editing, but not published in the magazine.)
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February 7, 2015

Terrorist antiquities trading and state arms smuggling between Syria and Turkey

The antiquities trade rules in the Russia-drafted United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution against terrorist financing have been reviewed by China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States – and revised (or most significantly revised) by the United States.
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February 5, 2015

Resolution against terrorist antiquities trading is welcome, but why not resolution against conflict antiquities trading?

Russia is drafting a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution to combat terrorist financing, which will specifically target illicit trading in antiquities by the Islamic State.
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February 1, 2015

Operation Aureus-Hieratica: Egyptian-Spanish antiquities trafficking may have funded Islamic State

The details of Operation Aureus (within Spain, Operation Hieratica) – a massive and remarkable Europol-coordinated, Interpol-assisted, UNESCO-supported investigation – are beginning to emerge. (Paul Barford has been keeping track of the news.) Now, a new report claims that the Egyptian-Spanish antiquities supply line was run to fund the Islamic State [but no evidence has yet been presented].
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January 23, 2015

You, a white non-Arabic-speaking non-Muslim, do not want to sneak into Islamic State territory and produce an exposé…

This is a brief post with brief advice. I’m not even going to bother to add links to evidence of this statement of the obvious. It isn’t a comment on the individuals who have contacted me because, over the past year, I have been contacted by media organisations and freelance journalists in Europe and North America. And it certainly isn’t a comment on the reporters and others who have lost their lives while trying to document and reduce people’s suffering.

You, a white non-Arabic-speaking non-Muslim, do not want to sneak into Islamic State territory in Syria or Iraq and produce an exposé. You probably won’t make it in. You almost certainly won’t make it out. It is better for the outside world not to know about antiquities trafficking or cultural destruction than it is for you to die trying to tell them. And if you do die trying to tell them, they won’t know any more about the problem anyway, because you’ll be dead.

January 6, 2015

antiquities looted during unrest in Egypt are reaching public markets in the West

I’ll write more about this soon, but I can’t right now. Suffice to say, undocumented Egyptian antiquities, which were evidently looted Egyptian antiquities, reached an Australian auction house. (I saw this story via Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE.) They had been looted ‘in the aftermath of the January 25 Revolution and its consequent security lapse’, which Tristan Summerscale and George Richards’ audio documentary, Gleaming in the Dust, explores very well.
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December 27, 2014

Wouldn’t it be better for collectors and dealers to restrict themselves to the 145-year-old market in licensed antiquities from Cyprus?

It looks like 2017, when Cyprus and the United States will discuss the renewal of their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on antiquities import restrictions, is going to be a long year for me. American antiquities collector and lobbyist Peter Tompa has temporarily excluded me from a perceived “archaeological lobby” in order to use the work that offended the anonymous activist against the “archaeological lobby”.
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