Monday, October 31, 2011

Treasures Stolen from Benghazi Vault-- But When and By Whom?

The Sun Newspapers and others have reported that a treasure trove of gold artifacts and coins was stolen from a Benghazi bank vault. See

Collectors and dealers in ancient art should obviously report any efforts to sell such materials to the authorities. Here are some other thoughts.

1. Although some will apparently use this news as a basis to claim there is a need for "emergency import restrictions" on Libyan cultural material, these objects would already be treated as stolen under US and other law.

2. While the theft of this material is said to have happened during revolution, if what happened in Iraq is any guide, it's also possible that the material was stolen earlier by officials associated with the former regime, and the loss is only coming to light now.

3. It would have been easier to identify this material if it had been properly recorded by either the Italian authorities who returned it to Libya back in 1961 or the Libyans themselves. Unfortunately, this does not appear to have been the case, so all we will be left with is some general descriptions of the material. Hopefully, Libyan authorities will put out as detailed as possible descriptions of the missing artifacts soon.

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