African nations’ cultural objects have been harvested by foreign powers; attacked by religious movements and political factions; and, sometimes under duress, reduced to commodities and sacrificed for subsistence or survival. Still now, Nigerian ‘archaeological sites’ are ‘daily looted’; as Neil Brodie observed, nearly half of the objects on the International Council of Museums’ (ICOM) list of African ‘cultural goods most affected by looting and theft‘ are Nigerian artefacts.
the antiquities trade in Nigeria: looting in the midst of economic, environmental, political and professional crisis
Mali: no evidence of mass looting, but only because of refugee crisis and extremists’ commitment to destruction
Despite a multidimensional crisis that has created ideal conditions for the trade in conflict antiquities from Mali, there appears to be no evidence of organised criminal, or religious or nationalist paramilitary, antiquities looting.
Unfortunately, the lack of looting may actually indicate that the humanitarian crisis is too severe to be exploited by the illicit antiquities market: the most desperate communities have become refugees unable to engage in subsistence digging; and the religious extremist paramilitaries do not need or want to profit from the smuggling and sale of cultural property, as their sole interest is in its destruction.