Now that claims that looting is "the most important funding source for ISIS after 'hot oil'" and "$36 million in looted antiquities were taken by ISIS from one area in Syria alone" have been thoroughly debunked, the archaeological blogosphere is desperately seeking an easy explanation for where all those stolen antiquities must have gone.
That easy "answer?" "Cold storage."
But, once again, caveat emptor. This red herring first appeared after the initial phase of the Second Gulf War in 2003-2004 to explain why a promised avalanche of looted Iraqi antiquities never surfaced in the United States and other Western markets. As of 2013, before the rise of ISIS, these stolen artifacts still had not appeared in quantity.
In any event, while it is true at least one such infamous storage space did exist for looted Italian artifacts back in 1980's Switzerland, is it reasonable to assume similar secret facilities exist in today's Iraq and Syria? Or, is it more reasonable to believe that no rational middle man would create such "cold storage" in a "hot war zone" where one bomb or mortar shell could easily turn a treasure house into dust.
But what of all those holes at Apamea (a site the archaeological lobby is also loath to admit is controlled by the Assad regime)? CPO agrees satellite imagery appears to show looter's holes, but notes again reports out of Iraq after the Second Gulf War suggest all may not be what it seems.
Under the circumstances, isn't it at least possible most of holes at Apamea (and other sites like Dura Europos) were "dry," i.e., they produced little of value or that the excavations were actually for military purposes, i.e., "fox holes" for the troops of the warring factions?
Or, is this again yet another case where such obvious possibilities cannot be seriously considered because they would further undermine the archaeological lobby's efforts to encourage government decision makers to impose the "devil's proof" on collectors of ancient artifacts?