Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Nameless Tycoon had Pompeii Frescoes Stolen Sixty years ago


'US finds Pompeii frescoes robbed in 1950s' 26 May 2015
Frescoes stolen from the ancient site of Pompeii in the 1950s have been found in the US after their wealthy owner died. The three frescoes were due to go up for auction after an American tycoon passed away, leaving his valuable private collection, Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Tuesday. The artworks have been missing for nearly 60 years, since being stolen from the superintendency of Pompeii in 1957. They depict a young woman with a cupid on her shoulder, a woman carrying a wine pitcher and a male figure. [...] The find marks the end of a lengthy operation to find items stolen in the 1957 raid, with other pieces recovered previously in Europe and the US. A fresco of a peacock was discovered in Switzerland, one of wine god Dionysus had been taken to the UK, while an sacrifice fresco was found in the US.
And just by coincidence the name of the grabbing "tycoon" and his or her efforts to check where the frescoes came from, thereby wasting police time, is nowhere revealed.

Dhamar, Yemen Museum Destroyed


The Dhamar Museum in Yemen, the repository of all work done in the province, including the Oriental Institute's work from 1978 onwards, has been destroyed

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Antiquities Seized in Abu Sayyaf raid


Larry Rothfield has spotted an interesting piece of news reported in USA Today ('Killed ISIS leader had a trove of antiquities in his compound' Sunday, May 24, 2015). Last week, a top ISIL operative, Abu Sayyaf - who had a senior role in overseeing ISIL's illicit oil and gas operations - was killed by U.S. special operations troops in his compound in eastern Syria. In the raid, some objects were seized, among them reportedly:
was a trove of antiquities, including ancient coins and a bible. ISIL fighters apparently had plundered the priceless relics during their sweep through Iraq and Syria that began last summer. It appears ISIL planned to sell them on the black market to fund its operations rather than destroy them, the first official said.
First of all, I would like some confirmation of this story. Is it not a little convenient for the US-propagated "antiquities fund terrorism" narrative? What, actually, was found? What "Bible"? What kind of coins? Where were they found in a rushed raid in the middle of ISIL territory, lying laid out on a sideboard by the TV guide in the sitting room? Anyway, the US is believed to have the man's computer records and perhaps some more interesting facts will emerge about ISIL's dealings in various resources including, perhaps, antiquities.


"It's always Brits" - the bitter harvest of UK's Hoik-friendly Artefact Policies


Roland Hughes, 'Eurostar's problem with artillery shell collectors', BBC News 12 May 2015
When the Gare du Nord was evacuated on Monday after a passenger tried to take a disarmed artillery shell onto a Eurostar train, rail operators may well have let out a deep sigh and thought: "Not again".[...] An official with SNCF, France's national railway, told the BBC that such incidents were happening "fairly regularly". "It's always Brits," he said. "We have to teach them that it has to stop, [...]". A Eurostar spokeswoman noted that there were also "clear posters up in Paris Gare du Nord letting people know what they can and can't carry when it comes to war artefacts".
But of course British artefact collectors feel that such regulations do not apply to them, personally. They are, in their own minds, an exception. Like all antiquity collectors. The PAS was set up to educate the public about portable antiquity collecting issues, but seventeen years on, it does not seem to have made much headway in that regard. So, do you reckon the French will be adopting one soon?

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Syria Finally Facing the End? Russia to Help Iraq.


Martin Chulov asks whether, 'Amid the ruins of Syria, is Bashar al-Assad now finally facing the end?' (Guardian 24th May 2015). The US is rapidly losing any influence it had in the Middle East to control events and the Syrian government is under increased pressure from on the one hand the rebels backed by neighbouring countries and on the other ISIL. The evacuation of cultural property to 'safe' areas within Syria becomes pointless once those regions too are the scene of military activity and then overrun, as is looking increasingly likely. The only question is which rebel group will get their hands on the evacuated  cultural property and will any of it find its way back to the places it had been evacuated from?

Meanwhile 'Russia ready to help Iraq defeat Islamic State: Lavrov':

Russia is ready to supply weapons to Iraq, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday, as the country struggles to halt advances by Islamic State militants. [...] Moscow would make every effort to help the Baghdad government push back the militants. Islamic State insurgents overran the Iraqi city of Ramadi last weekend in the most significant setback for the Baghdad government in a year, exposing the weakness of Iraq's army and the limitations of U.S. air strikes.


A History of metal detecting in 3 flyers


Heritage Action, 'A History of metal detecting in 3 flyers', The depressing cul-de-sac that is Britain's portable antiquities policy can be deduced from just three flyers. With one to print out and distribute yourself.

Tracking the Antiquities of ISIL Funding?


Now they have occupied and pacified Palmyra, Pamela Engel declares in Business Insider that "ISIS is about to make A LOT of money off (sic) 'the archaeological equivalent of a beheading'..." May 22, 2015.
Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider that ISIS makes most of its money from racketeering, which includes collecting "taxes" from the residents who live within the borders of the territory it has taken over, plundering people's homes, and looting historical sites and selling antiquities on the black market. "It’s a racket. And that’s how ISIS continues to survive and thrive," Schanzer said. "They need to jump from community to community in order to sustain themselves financially." Smugglers who talked to BuzzFeed News described Palmyra as a potential windfall to their business. One Syrian smuggler said he was sure ISIS would sell the artifacts they could get their hands on in Palmyra.
 Maybe, but only if they can get somebody to buy the antiquities. So, who is going to buy them? The hysterical warnings that "terrorists"are selling antiquities have now been trundled out almost daily for a year. ("terrorists" =ISIL, nobody else in the region with guns, because after all the US have been financing some of the others themselves).  Fine, it gets people looking askance at those no-questions-asked transactions on our antiquities market.  Certainly that is needed, and this manner of dealing in cultural property needs to end. We have seen the dealers do not take too kindly to such a notion and are putting up a (weak) fight. But the longer the story is put out, the more people other than dealer are going to ask about the details - like where are those "millions of dollars" worth of antiquities? Where are they going? Even if the market is entirely clandestine and underground, if it is on such a scale, why are not "accidents" happening and one or two shipments being seized? When journalists go on a search for the proceeds of digging, all they ever come up with a re a few scraps (handfulls of metal detector finds) and above all fakes? Is that because these journalists (or their local fixers) are no good at their job, or is there some other explanation? Or are we looking in the wrong places?

Here's a map (from Business Insider) showing a current interpretation of what ISIL holds:

ISIL terrirory (May 2015 - Business Insider)
How can ISIL make money if the material is not, in fact leaving Iraq and Syria at all? How, actually is it postulated that this stuff is leaving ISIL territory? Can somebody give us a realistic suggestion of the routes used? It's all very well making the "assumption" that it is all going across the "wild" (sic- as per Business Insider) Turkish border, but which antiquities dealers have direct or indirect business contacts with, for example, Turkey? But if that really is so, who is selling artefacts that have come onto the market through Turkey? If we believe that the contact zone between ISIL territory and Turkey is the area where this material is surfacing, maybe we need to be searching online markets for material of types found in precisely this area to see who has suppliers there. But perhaps is is wrong to concentrate our attention on this border. What about material leaving across the porous borders in Iraq? Down the Persian Gulf (to Qatar or Dubai for example)?  Or into Jordan or Saudi Arabia? Or perhaps the material is not leaving the territory of ISIL at all? Who is to say when there are assumptions, no information, and a market which hides everything? 

 
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