Yesterday I blogged about the growing problem of black market antiquities, specifically, concerning Syria, and about a pattern that seems to have emerged in tandem with the West’s constant geopolitical meddling in the Middle East. I suggested and argued yesterday that there seems to be a hidden “antiquities agenda” in the Middle East with respect to these interventions, and that the military-industrial-finance-intelligence complex of the Anglosphere could easily fulfill its quest to acquire antiquities by (1) utilizing known or existing field or museum catalogs of legitimate digs to place “orders” or “BOLO” (Be On the Look Out for) certain items, and (2) utilizing planted agents within the smuggling community to acquire items it sought. This pattern of “insider jobs” first emerged in the Baghdad Museum looting, and was the conclusion of the U.S. Marine Colonel, Bogdanovich, sent to investigate the matter and recover the stolen antiquities. As I’ve blogged elsewhere on this subject, the odd thing about the whole Baghdad Museum looting was that the art objects for the most part were recovered and returned… but the cuneiform tablets that were looted remain largely unrecovered, a fact suggesting that the real antiquities being sought were in the form of knowledge.
In what will probably not surprise readers of this site, the same pattern of “illicit digs” and “independent black market smugglers” seems to have been in evidence in Libya during the coup d’etat against the Qaddafi regime, and it is still going on:
Libya still at risk from the plunder and smuggling of antiquities
Note the intriguing statements here:
“A workshop organised by the Department of Antiquities and UNESCO on the fight against the illicit trafficking of stolen artefacts has shown that, even two years after the outbreak of revolution, the country’s treasures are at risk of falling into the hands of artefacts dealers and disappearing abroad.
“There are two areas that are particularly vulnerable: items from museums or other collections and artefacts dug up in illegal excavations. The latter, the workshop was told, can be particularly difficult to trace because the objects are not recorded, meaning their exact origin is often unclear.
“Secretary-General of the Libyan National Commission for UNESCO, Fawzia Bariun, said that, although four decades of the old regime had neglected the country’s heritage, the revolution had brought a new challenge.
“’During the Arab Spring, international gangs came to these regions to traffic cultural heritage and artefacts, to exploit the transitional phase that follows a revolution,’ Bariun said.”(emphasis added)
Again, the same pattern: illicit or illegal digs, but this time, with a twist, for “international gangs” behind such activities implies international organization. It does not require much imagination to see what “organization” in this case would consist of: (1) specialized intelligence regarding the archaeology of the region, (2) financing, and perhaps even (3) satellite imagery or intelligence, inclusive of radar tomography of the country to know where to make the “illicit digs.”
Such considerations are again another indicator that the plunder of the antiquities of the region may be organized on a high level and within the national security institutions and communities of the Anglosphere, and that specific things are being sought under the cover of wider antiquities trafficking. It is perhaps instructive to note that this article states that a bust or statue of the head of Flavia Domitilla, daughter of Roman Emperor Vespasian, was recovered by the Italian Carabinieri and returned to Libya.
This too fits the “Baghdad Museum Looting pattern,” for it will be recalled that the objects of art stolen from that museum were for the most part recovered and returned to Iraq… it is the cuneiform tablets, the information, that was not returned.
Obviously, I am speculating wildly, but the pattern is there, and it is suggestive of a common modus operandi of international black marketeers in antiquities, an activity that would be easily penetrated by more serious players and collectors, the power elites themselves.
See you on the flip side…