Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Syria and Iraq, a Continued Black Market and a Cycle of Corruption

Michael Peppard of Fordham University has been talking about the destruction of archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq (Matthew Bell, "ISIS wants to erase the Middle East’s Christian history — and make a few bucks along the way", WGBH News, January 22, 2016). He reflects on the destruction of the monastery of St Elijah.

Peppard talks about the looting of sites in Syria to raise funds for IS.
“Anything that is portable, that has been discovered, for example, through a systematized looting operation, is being monetized and used as a currency and sold abroad.”
The report then continues with the astonishing:
There could be one tiny shred of good news here. If ISIS continues to facilitate the excavation and sale of artifacts, that means some antiquities could potentially make their way into the hands of experts who could learn from them and preserve them for future generations.
Is the report suggesting that "experts", by which I would understand museum curators and others who acquire ancient "art", pay money to acquire archaeological material that has been derived from such a source? Is it suggesting that it is acceptable to loot so long as that the objects are acquired by somebody who will "preserve" the objects? Do the acquirers reflect on who gains financially from such an arrangement?

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