Saturday, July 18, 2015

"Pay-dirt" or Reality Falls Far Short of Hype Once More?

After a series of outlandish claims including that "looted antiquities" are ISIS' second most important funding source after "hot oil" with "$36 million" taken from one area in Syria alone and some dubious assumptions derived from the fact that a coin struck in Apamea was for sale on eBay and a book with ancient coins in it was seized from ISIS, the archaeological lobby has finally appeared to hit "pay-dirt" courtesy of the US State Department and its repatriation of antiquities seized from Abu Sayyaf, who is said to have been a terrorist financier.

But has it really?  A few hundred minor antiquities and Islamic coins (including fakes and a few objects said to be stolen from the Iraq Museum) were found, but if this haul represents the quantity, quality and monetary value of what is stored in those fabled "warehouses" postulated to hold fabulous treasures intended to fund ISIS and its insurgency, hype again has indeed far outstripped reality.

1 comment:

Duncan Finch said...

Is it possible that the State Department and all those passionate defenders of the archaeological record actually believe their own propaganda? We constantly hear about various looted items being 'priceless treasures', so, when presented with a 'stash' or 'cache' or 'hoard' or whatever of ancient items among the possessions of an eliminated terrorist, well, people jump up and down yelling about how this stuff must be used to finance the Islamists!! Hurrah!! Proof at last!!

But this Abu Sayyaf stuff is plain and simple JUNK. The gold coins are all Islamic of the kind that are bought by gold weight in Arab lands (please do not suggest that ISIS has a coin department filled with reference works on rare mints and dates!); Islamic silver is also worth very little except to specialists. Fake busts of Nefertiti aren't worth anything, and the boxes and bags of archaeological fragments can only be sold in large lots by weight since many of the individual pieces have no value at all.

You have made an estimate of $40,000, RETAIL, for the whole lot in the photographs. I do think that is optimistic - given how people in the middle east bargain that might imply a wholesale price of $8000 top. And this is supposed to support ISIS financially? If these guys want to buy a top-of-the-line APKWS II (a 'smart' 70mm rocket,)they cost to official buyers $28,000 a pop - more to cash rich but 'unofficial' buyers like ISIS. To pay for a nice stock of those ISIS would need several tons of crap like the stuff shown in those photos; and the fact is that no one is going to be particularly hot to buy such rubbish, so that selling it is not going to be easy.

Since even our favorite Blogger, Polish archaeologist Paul Barford, clearly thinks that this whole megilah about the Abu Sayyaf stash is made-up foolishness, we can, for once, agree with him.