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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July 15, 2015

the ‘first material proof’ that Islamic State is trafficking antiquities

As Iraqia TV correspondent Amir Musawy scooped and SWR reporter Esther Saoub @esaoub translated, the United States has given ‘#antiquities to #Iraq, that [were] seized with #ISIS commander Abu Sayyaf in #Syria'; it is the ‘first material proof that #ISIS is engaged in #antiquity trade’. And it demonstrates several features of the trade all at once.

There have been a lot of updates, which are here, but I consider whether this was Abu Sayyaf’s stash and where it might have been assembled more fully (or more coherently) in an update-summarising follow-up post.

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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July 15, 2015

heritage management student’s archaeology blogging questionnaire

Heritage Management student Fleur Schinning is researching how social media are used and how they might be used to improve access to archaeology, based on blogs in the UK and the US. She’s written a questionnaire for readers (how you prefer to get information, why you use blogs, etc.) and another for bloggers (what you blog, how you try to reach your audience, etc.). Those who answer the questionnaire for readers might win six issues of Archaeology Magazine!

July 15, 2015

At the very least, delete the list of offices from your e-mail signature before you ask.

In the 13 months since the first apparent evidence of Islamic State antiquities trafficking emerged (though that data has still not been published and verified), media organisations alone have used my work in at least ninety reports on that and other subjects.1 And they’re just the ones that have credited me.
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July 14, 2015

Financial investment in the antiquities market: a premium price for looted antiquities?

Just in case readers did not see last month’s updates to the story of the six-century-old “Syrian” tile trafficked from a shrine in Syria, which was in fact a twelve-decade-old Persian tile transported from a seller in France, I thought I would highlight them in the light of a few other stories about the market-end of the antiquities trade, because they hint at something that may be quite significant.
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