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.
[Update (13th January 2015): As Larry Rothfield commented, ‘we already knew that Egyptian artifacts’ – such as sarcophagi – ‘were moving through Dubai to Israel and to the US because they were seized’. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) broke up a ring of dealers and collectors who forged documentation and smuggled antiquities into the United States. (As ever, Paul Barford’s already discussed this criminal conspiracy’s import of Egyptian and Iraqi cultural property.) So, the counter-factual – the denial of the illicit trade in antiquities from the Egyptian crisis – would not simply require the trade to not exist despite the “catastrotunity”, it would require the trade to have stopped existing during the unrest.]
Anyone sane must agree, if antiquities that have demonstrably been looted from crisis-and-unrest-riven Egypt are reaching public markets in the West, then they must also be reaching private markets in the West, even though the nature of those markets makes their illicit commodities practically invisible.
And anyone reasonable must accept, if antiquities that have been looted during the unrest in Egypt are reaching Western markets, then antiquities that have been looted during the conflict(s) in Syria and Iraq too must be reaching Western markets, even though the nature of those markets makes their illicit commodities practically invisible.
The question is not if these irreplaceable cultural assets are being plundered for, smuggled to, dealt in and collected in the West, but who is buying, importing and selling these looted antiquities, how are they buying, importing and selling them, who is collecting them and who are they funding when they buy them.
[I’ve slightly edited this post for clarity, just changed “it” into something, etc.]