Friday, December 12, 2014

$36 million looting figure loses further credibility

Hopefully, anyone in the archaeological blogosphere still holding out hope that that $36 million figure for looted artifacts in one area alone has or will be "verified" or "corroborated"  will read this:

"So how much money is ISIL making from looted antiquities? Several media reports over the past two months put it at millions of dollars. One said ISIL had made $36m (Dh132m) alone from looting at one site in Syria. A spokesperson for Unesco’s Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Heritage Project also called the high figures being quoted grossly inaccurate. Desmarais [of ICOM] agrees: 'If someone gives you a number today, they are lying to you.'

Brodie also questions the financial figures put on looting and has called for proper verification. “I don’t believe these figures,” he says. “In 2013, Sotheby’s New York turned over $20m in antiquities sales from the entire Mediterranean and Middle East area, so ISIL would need to be making more than Sotheby’s from one site. For another perspective, assuming found antiquities in Syria are worth $50 each (which is an optimistic estimate), ISIL would need to have found and sold 720,000 antiquities.”

The article in question is far better than the usual propaganda the archaeological lobby has promoted in order to take advantage of the ongoing tragedy in Syria to clamp down further on collectors and even get a government payday.  Yet, it suffers from a problem common to most articles (and decision making) in the area-- while "experts" (mostly with an axe to grind) are consulted, collectors and small businesses who are expected to bare the brunt of any proposed "corrective regulation" are not.  No wonder government, academia and the press are held in such low regard these days.

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