Monday, February 23, 2015

A North American Dealer on Looting in Syria

North American dealer Chris M. Maupin has commented on Simon Cox's BBC report on antiquities from Syria ("Sensationalist Reporting and the Antiquities Trade: If it’s in Print it Must be True!", February 22, 2015). Maupin only cites the supporting BBC News story ("The men who smuggle the loot that funds IS") rather than the full documentary on BBC Radio 4.

Cox interviewed archaeologist Dr Assaad Seif in Lebanon. Seif noted that the Lebanese authorities had seized a number of antiquities coming out of Syria; among them were a dozen items each worth an estimated $1 million.

Yet Maupin seems to overlook this part of the report:
This despite the fact that in his investigation Cox only once sees any antiquities described as having been looted. These he views via a Skype meeting and are described as small figurines, glass vessels, bits of pottery and coins, acquired over a period of several months.
Maupin also suggests that the movement of antiquities from their find-spots to the market place is "imaginary".
Cox falls into the trap of reporting on an (imaginary) international criminal network, operating in a shadow world of diggers, smugglers, middlemen and dealers.
Cox, and producer Paul Grant, put together a carefully researched programme that explained how objects moved from Syria. Members of the programme team even attended a conference on Syria that was held at the British Academy so that they could hear the latest information.

Those of us in the UK value the professionalism of BBC journalists: rarely a day goes by at work without some discussion of a news piece on the BBC Today programme.

Maupin's post is itself 'sensationalist' and could be described as 'ill-informed'.

Is there another reason why Maupin want to discredit the BBC?  Is he wanting to ensure the continuing movement of archaeological material from the Middle East to potential buyers?

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