NBC News reports that ICOM is working on a Syrian Red List of Antiquities at Risk. Unfortunately, the unfolding tragedy in Syria again seems to have encouraged others to use it as yet another opportunity to pursue an anti-collecting agenda, complete with the usual cast of villains and stratospheric valuations of objects that have allegedly been looted.
CPO nonetheless wishes to join others in their concern about the consequences for archaeology of the chaos in Syria. Syria has far fewer sites than Iraq, but the disintegration of government authority across the country will surely put these, and the treasures in Syria's museums, at risk. Many Syrian artifacts are self-evident to the knowledgeable scholar and collector, and while most do not reach the level of high art, CPO counsels against acquisition of anything that is clearly of Syrian origin from anything other than reputable sources.
It continues to be a dark shame that much Syrian archaeology is so little documented. The inventory of the Damascus Museum's, a true gem among museums in the Middle East, filled with crucially important material, is meager in comparison to what it holds. The same is true of Syria's other regional museum. Perhaps worse, excavations have done little to fully document what they have dug up, or allocated funds necessary to make full records of the material they have uncovered. It is always easier and more fun to dig than to record or publish. But the consequences of such negligence have been apparent in Iraq, and now stare us in the face in Syria.
What are we to do about it?