Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Making of an Urban Legend

One of the main justifications for the purported need for "emergency import restrictions" on Syrian artifacts is that ISIS has netted $36 million from the sale of artifacts from just one area in Syria alone.  This $36 million figure has been repeated so often that it is now taken as fact.

But is it accurate?  First, let's consider the source-- an unnamed Iraqi intelligence official.  Right there, alarm bells should go off given the Iraqi Sectarian Government's questionable  reputation and desperate need for international support.

Next, let's consider the actual report.  Let's assume the source is credible.  Even if so, it's not clear at all whether the $36 million figure relates to looted antiquities or the value of everything ISIS has taken from that one specific area. 

The archaeological community purports to take a "scientific approach" to all issues.  So its disheartening that even those who previously questioned the report as "contradictory" have now latched onto it because they think it will help give their demands to suppress all trade in undocumented artifacts some additional traction. 

1 comment:

John H said...

It's an imaginative piece of sexy propaganda purporting to prop-up a weakening position, and we can't really blame desperate archaeologists for grasping at (fictional?) straws to save face along with their argument.

More worryingly perhaps, is whether this kind of economy with the truth is likely to bleed over into their own work by gilding the lily to ensure funds, from wherever or whatever source, to secure future salaries?

Gilding the lily? One has only to look at the regular rag-bag of comments on one particular archeo-blog to get a flavor.

Best wishes

John Howland