Monday, January 4, 2010

Antiquities and terrorism

Does Looting Matter? I was very struck by reading Judith Harris, 'Financing Terror', The Journal of Art Crime 1, 2 (Fall 2009) 89 [subscription details]. She comments on a speech made by Giuseppe Proietti of the Italian Ministry of Culture. Proietti made the point, “the trade in archaeological artifacts in Iraq and Afghanistan is second in volume only to the drug traffic.”

What is more striking is the claim,
[Proietti] also said that Mohammed Atta, who headed the suicide command that destroyed the Twin Towers on September 11, 2002, had two years previously contacted an archaeologist at the historic University of Göttingen in Germany with an offer to sell looted archaeological artifacts from Afghanistan. According to the unidentified archaeologist, who declined the offer, the money was to finance Atta’s flying lessons in the U.S., said Proietti.

I see the story was reported in Germany ("Kunst als Terrorfinanzierung?", Der Spiegel 18. Juli 2005).

Die Hamburger Todespiloten haben nach neuen Erkenntnissen des Bundeskriminalamts (BKA) möglicherweise versucht, die Anschläge vom 11. September 2001 durch illegalen Kunsthandel zu finanzieren.

Der Kopf der Gruppe, der Ägypter Mohammed Atta, sprach 2000 oder 2001 die Göttinger Professorin Brigitte G. an und offerierte "antike afghanische Kunst mit dem Ziel der Weitervermittlung". "Er wollte wissen, wo man Antiquitäten vermarkten kann", erinnert sich die Wissenschaftlerin. Dabei habe Atta, so das BKA, am Rande als Begründung möglicherweise auch geäußert, er brauche das Geld, um den Ankauf eines Flugzeugs zu finanzieren. Der Kontakt nach Göttingen war über die Technische Universität Harburg vermittelt worden, an der Atta damals studierte. Weil die Professorin ihn auf das Auktionshaus Sotheby's verwies, kam kein Geschäft zustande. Atta war Anfang 2000 aus den Qaida-Ausbildungslagern in Afghanistan zurück nach Deutschland gekommen, um die Anschläge auf die USA vorzubereiten.
Who was buying such antiquities in the period before 2001?

Such a report should make museums, collectors and antiquities dealers think twice before they buy recently-surfaced antiquities.

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Wayne G. Sayles said...

Dear David;

Why would you feel compelled to use an anonymous anecdote from five years ago to support a sensationalist headline? Further, quoting the Italian Ministry of Culture in a comparison of archaeological artifacts with drugs as the primary funding sources of terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq is pitiful. Are you really getting that desperate? Next, you'll be quoting Matthew Bogdanos or Donny George, neither of which have much credibility left since the truth about the Baghdad Museum is now known.



John Muccigrosso said...


Isn't the main point that smugglers tend to smuggle whatever needs smuggling, be it drugs, antiquities or something else? I don't think there's much dispute about this as a standard MO for such people. Do you?

You also misquote the citation David gives: it doesn't say antiquities dealing was the main source of the 9/11 terrorists' funding at all.

itdeal7 said...

Dear Wayne,

could you be so kind so as to precise what you mean by saying 'the truth about Baghdad museum was discovered'? And what's happened to Bogdanos' credibility? I might be not aware of some most recent developments in Museum's case, so I just ask you to clarify this all.

Thank you very much.

Best regards,

Baby said...

Dear Wayne,

could you please precise what you mean by saying that 'truth was discovered about Baghdad museum'?
I'm probably not aware of the recent news. Thanks a lot.


Baby said...

Dear Wayne,

could you please specify what you mean by 'the truth about Baghdad museum'? I might be unaware of the latest developments, and the question of Bogdanos' credibility is also interesting to me.



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