I appreciate that this information is being circulated by someone who is trying to secure funding for research and analysis in which I would be involved. And I appreciate that this information might be characterised as a derivation of things that I have said. However, I cannot accept its circulation, especially as it affiliates me with a different university and it claims that I am performing work outside my current contract, for which I would need a visa that I do not have. I do not know amongst whom it is being circulated.
Dr. Sam Hardy from the University of Rome, is on a dig site in Turkey as we speak. He said all the contraband with the illicit trade of ISIS looted antiquities is being smuggled out under our noses, and is being loaded on GTW 300,000 [300,000 kilogram gross trailer weight] cargo boats, for ports around the world.
I am Adjunct Faculty at the American University of Rome (AUR).
I am not on a dig site in Turkey. I have never excavated in Turkey; I have not been to Turkey since 2015; I have not performed any post-excavation work anywhere else since 2012; and I have not participated in any excavations anywhere else since 2007.
Publicly as well as privately (for example at the 5th UNESCO International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property), I have relayed Rose George’s observation that, globally, only 2-10% of containers are inspected; in the United States, only 5%; in Europe, only 1-3%.
I have indeed said (for example during the Council for British Research in the Levant’s panel discussion of Syrian Heritage in Crisis) that conflict antiquities from Syria are still now being shipped from Lebanon via Cyprus to Western markets as, in 1975, conflict antiquities from Lebanon itself were shipped via Cyprus to Western markets.
Hence, I have argued that, even in the least corrupt and best policed countries, Syrian antiquities could be shipped as “Near Eastern” antiquities or Syrian “handicrafts” and, 95% or 99% of the time, they would not be checked. That is why it is so important to require licenses for export and import and to restrict trading in unlicensed objects.
I must also repeat, yet again, that I am not only talking about the Islamic State. Despite the political inconvenience (and until recently career suicide), I am also talking about trafficking by other jihadist forces, non-jihadist rebel forces, Assad regime forces and all of those armed groups’ organised criminal accomplices.