Iraqi and Syrian conflict antiquities: ‘somebody, somewhere is buying the stuff’

Esquire‘s Charles P. Pierce (@ESQPolitics) picked up on the use of antiquities trafficking for paramilitary fundraising in Iraq and Syria and highlighted that,

there’s not much you can do about bank robberies, but the archaeological artifacts are being sold, which means that somebody, somewhere is buying the stuff [and]…. sooner or later, some of it is bound to appear on the open market.

The end buyers, as much as their rival bidders and intermediaries, are funding the activities of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant/al-Sham(1).

He did quote the originally misreported count for the number of antiquities looted from the Iraq National Museum (the total holdings of 170,000, instead of the 15,000 missing objects). But it also led Larry Rothfield (@LarryChicago) to note that,

while there is no way to get a firm estimate of how many pieces have been dug up by tomb robbers in Iraq since 2003, extrapolation from satellite imagery showing looting holes leads to a rough estimate that over 300,000 artifacts have come out of the ground, most between 2003 and 2007. See The Rape of Mesopotamia: Behind the Looting of the Iraq Museum for the whole sordid tale.

Likewise, using the records of private collections taken into protective custody after the 1974 invasions, I calculated the minimum number of antiquities looted during the Cypriot civil war (which I will publish properly at some point), and estimated that it was around 205,625 (between 174,781 and 236,468). This really is big, bad business.

Notes

1: Da’ash, Da’esh, ISIL or ISIS.

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