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Iraq and looting

July 12, 2011
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There are two interesting news pieces about Iraqi antiquities that have been making the rounds recently.  The first one is an opinion piece by a U.S. Marine Colonel who argues that looted antiquities from Iraq are being used to fund terrorist activities.  It’s a short read, and another interesting and depressing perspective on looting in the region.  My opinions about the relationship between collecting and looting tend to be somewhat negative, and so I wasn’t surprised that Col. Bogdanos points out that a lot of these objects end up seeming “clean” because it’s more profitable for museums and auction houses to simply not bother questioning their invented provenances.  I’m also not sure I hold much hope that this particular line of argument will be more successful in preventing people from buying illicit antiquities than any other.  This isn’t Looting Matters, though, and I’m actually bringing the piece up for a different reason.  I was initially a bit offended by this statement he makes on the second page:

But here’s another reason to stress: and that is that most of the pieces that were looted in Iraq pre-date Islam, pre-date the split between Sunni and Shia Muslims, pre-date Christianity, pre-date even Judaism.

I may be a bit biased, but I’m of the opinion that the archaeology of more recent periods is rather important, too.  I can see what he’s trying to get at, but it still seemed like an odd thing to say. Then, yesterday, I saw this AP story.  I think I had heard about the story behind this before, but had forgotten it.  When I read this update, though, I did have to wonder if it was at all related to the statement that had surprised me in the first story.

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