A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Updates on the Ongoing Threat to Antiquities in Syria and Iraq

It's been some time since I've blogged about the threat to antiquities and archaeological sites in Ira and Syria by ISIS and by ongoing warfare by other parties. Here are a few useful readings and references.

The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), Society for American Archaeology (SAA), American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), American Anthropological Association (AAA), and Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago issued a joint statement deploring developments a few weeks ago.

While ISIS has circulated video of some of their destruction, other reports have come from the Iraqi government and my be exaggerated. The Assyriology blog Gates of Nineveh offers a rundown and assesses the reports, providing a number of videos: "Damage around Tikrit, Destruction in Mosul."

Eleanor Robson at the Times Literary Supplement examines the question: "Modern War, Ancient Casualties."

It's also worth remembering that ISIS is not the only combatant, and that there's much propaganda in play, and in anarchic situations looting may be a temptation to all sides, as several headlines at Conflict Antiquities make clear:

"A Photoshopped frame of the destruction of a lamassu at Nergal Gate"

"Islamic State-looted antiquities on eBay? ‘The stories are absolutely false and defamatory.’ Multiple libel actions will follow."

"Conflict antiquities from Apamea do not finance the Islamic State – they finance the Assad regime."

 "Was most of the looting at the most extensively looted site in Syria conducted under the Islamic State or the Free Syrian Army?"

"State arms-for-antiquities trafficking between Turkey and Syria?"

I can't testify to the accuracy of these posts, and of course, whoever does it, the world loses.

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