Tag: looting

Alex Thomason

Near and Middle East


Ancient artifacts have been subject to looting over many years. According to Ursula Lindsey with The New York Times, “The Middle East lost many of its ancient treasures in colonial times, when priceless artifacts were carried off to European collections and museums. It is now witnessing ‘a new wave of loss’ associated with wars and conflicts, said Tamar Teneishvili, a program specialist for culture at the Unesco regional bureau in Cairo. Many archaeologists are experiencing flashbacks to the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, when Baghdad’s national museum was looted and sites across the country were ransacked,” (Lindsey, 2014)

Looting has especially taken a toll on Dhahir, Iraq. According to an article written in The New York Times, “The looting of Iraq’s ancient ruins is thriving again. This time it is not a result of the “stuff happens” chaos that followed the American invasion in 2003, but rather the bureaucratic indifference of Iraq’s newly sovereign government,” (Myers, 2010).

The issue at hand is stopping the increase in black market trade with ancient artifacts. According to a staff writer with the Al Arabiya News, “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has taken over large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, is selling ancient Iraqi artifacts in the black market to finance its military operations in the region, Iraqi and Western officials said. Speaking at a conference at the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO in Paris, France’s ambassador to UNESCO Philippe Lalliot warned that Iraq’s cultural heritage is in “great danger,” (Al Arabiya News, 2014).

One of the measures taken to restore peace in the Middle East was the development of the antiquities police force in 2008 to replace withdrawing American troops.

Steven Myers with The New York Times states, “A new antiquities police force, created in 2008 to replace withdrawing American troops, was supposed to have more than 5,000 officers by now. It has 106, enough to protect their headquarters in an Ottoman-era mansion on the eastern bank of the Tigris River in Baghdad and not much else. ‘I am sitting behind my desk and I am protecting the sites,’ the force’s commander, Brig. Gen. Najim Abdullah al-Khazali, said with exasperation. ‘With what? Words?,’” said Myers.

“The failure to staff and use the force — and the consequent looting — reflects a broader weakness in Iraq’s institutions of state and law as the American military steadily withdraws, leaving behind an uncertain legacy,” (Myers, 2010).

In regards to the tourism industry, the significant loss of ancient artifacts has caused major setbacks in Iraq for financial gain. I believe one of the problems lie within the Iraqi forces. The force commander’s statement, “I am sitting at my desk and I am protecting the sites,” draws a major red flag when it comes to the quality of leadership within the organization. However, this may prove to be difficult considering the creation of the antiquities forces in 2008 proved to be a giant failure. The Iraqi government may need assistance with training to create teams that effectively enforce looting.

I believe the best way to create success in decreasing the rapid growth with ancient artifacts being sold on the black market is by getting the community involved. A joint campaign created between the US and Iraqi forces to promote the historical/cultural significance of the ancient artifacts may help decrease the social acceptance of the black market trade. Once, a legitimate Iraqi force has been built, I believe all matters regarding looting should be taken care of internally.

Another problem lies within the ethics of museums, galleries and universities. These institutions should be held more accountable in regards to the knowledge of where they acquired their artifacts. Extensive documentation and background checks should be mandatory when making acquisitions. It is too easy for the manager of an art gallery to say, “I did not know the painting we received was originally stolen.”

Ultimately, the Iraqi antiquities forces need a complete overhaul to enforce the growing looting issues in the Middle East. Also, museums, universities and other institutions need to be held accountable when making acquisitions with privates sellers. If these two issues are effectively dealt with there may be a chance to stop the increase in looting.










Academics and Archaeologists Fight to Save Syria’s Artifacts




Iraq’s Ancient Ruins Face New Looting

By STEVEN LEE MYERS Published: June 25, 2010




ISIS selling Iraq’s artifacts in black market: UNESCO                                                         By Staff Writer, Al Arabiya News Published: Tuesday, 30 September 201




Looting at Weapons Plants Was Systematic, Iraqi Says                                                      By James Glanz and William J. Broad Published March 13, 2005                 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/13/international/middleeast/13loot.html

Syria’s Neighbors Must Pressure Assad on Preserving Antiquities                                       By James McAndrew Published: October 9, 2014                                     http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/10/08/protecting-syrias-heritage/syrias-neighbors-must-pressure-assad-on-preserving-antiquities


Course Power Points:

Neo-Babylon & Assyria






Looting of Ancient Artifacts Continues in the Near Middle East

looting  Looting of Ancient Artifacts Continues in the Near Middle East

   The act of looting has been around since the time of the first creatures to walk the Earth. It is a part of the natural habitat to take something from someone/something else whether it’s over envy, food or protection. This action becomes intensified when living quarters change drastically, In the since of humans, the main cause is war and poverty. Since the near middle east is the birth place of human civilization it is only logical that many wars and looting have taken place in this area. The issue in today’s society is the extreme continuation of this negative ancient habit in countries such as Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq and many others in that region.  Many of these regions are at war or are having rebellions creating uncivilized actions in which terrorist organizations, regimes and even normal citizens are raiding museums and historical sites to reek the easy profits of ancient relics.

   These ancient treasures are fueling the market with unknown parties scooping them away as fast as they come. UNESCO and other international and national agencies are trying to prevent this illicit trafficking, but still the world’s museums are full of objects that many people believe don’t belong there(Stanford 1). As the main focus of the Collier and Moeffler defense group suggests, viewing looting as a product of conflict is not enough to bring these acts to a halt (MacGinty 858). In northern Cambodia, 1998, the site of the ancient Banteay Chhmar temple, a small convoy of military trucks from a rogue militia set up road blocks not allowing anything to pass through. They began excavating the site by dragging near by villagers to work with jackhammers. In only two weeks this 800 year old once preserved site was destroyed with a 98-foot-long section of the wall carted off and sold on the black market. This and other evidence from Iraq and Afghanistan advocate that the smuggling of artifacts or “blood antiquities”  network are helping finance terrorism through violent insurgent groups.Benteay Chhmar These looting techniques have all but rose in the past three decades. In 2010, a Red List of Cambodian Antiquities at Risk was established by the International Council of Museums, alerting international law enforcement agencies and customs officials to try and prevent the blood antiquities trade from further flourishing(Pringle 1-4). In the 2011, the revolution of Egypt created more illegal excavations leaving behind, “hundreds of looters’ pits, exposed tombs, destroyed walls and even human remains, including remnants of dismembered mummies and strewn mummy wraps, littering the site like trash,”(Popular Archaeology 2). No longer obtaining permission to work or even enter Egypt Professor and Archaeologist Carol Redmount of U.C. Berkley established a Facebook page dedicated to the attention to the El Hibeh’s Plight in Egypt in an attempt to prevent other sites from this same horrific incident(Popular Archaeology 5). While this and other social media pages did create some media attention and recognition to the problem at hand it was also considered not as big of a deal as it should have been. Many viewed this as “the kid crying wolf” because the same problem happened years earlier after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s Regime, where looters entered the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad steeling and destroying thousands of artifacts while also damaging the museum. This became a huge international controversy because the United States was informed before war about the security of the objects. American archeologist and other international archaeologists teamed up against the United States through live media coverage by petitioning against the war and blaming the United States for not securing the most infamous museum before the looting took place. Millions of dollars were spent to try to reclaim these artifacts in which was not very successful until “the late spring and summer of 2003 when it became increasingly clear that the events at the museum did not conform to the initial narrative. Most of the missing high-quality artifacts had indeed been hidden in various vaults and locations by the staff. The staff portrayed its deception as necessary to protect the holdings, but some journalist were enraged about the manipulation(Joffe 1-10).” With the manipulation of media, preventive agencies and museums failing to protect the artifacts other actions have to be established before everything is either damaged or carted off to private owners to never be seen again. Since all other approaches have not been panning out maybe it time for other resources and plans to be put into action, for instance, there has been recent research using a Geographic Information System (GIS) for mapping out these illegal excavation sites along with other attempts of taking out the “Janus Point,” of the underground market and also fixing the poverty level of these countries.

    With new discoveries preventative actions can now be put in play to shut down the global black market. Sarah Parcak from the University of Alabama in Birmingham is one of the Archaeologist of the new frontier using the GIS, “To help halt the destruction, Parcak and her colleagues are working on new ways of tracking and monitoring looting. In Egypt, she explains, concentrations of looting holes can be seen from space, and her team is using high-resolution satellite images taken over time to look at changes in looting patterns.Sarah Parcak and her team are not only using satellite imagery to monitor looting from up in space. They’re also collecting images to identify buried landscapes with astonishing precision, thus contributing to archaeological finds. In 2011, relying on infrared satellite pictures, Parcak and her team identified 17 potential buried pyramids, some 3,000 settlements, and 1,000 tombs across Egypt.” This system is creating a tipping point where they can map, monitor and protect both known and unknown sites(Pringle 10).GIS layers In another effort to stop the looting of these ancient artifacts The University of Glasco, at the Scottish center for Crime and Justice Research, has researchers gathering data on the global black market for a multimillion dollar project dubbed the Trafficking Culture, with members analyzing how traffickers smuggle and launder looted artifacts, and how this can be prevented. “Our project is unique,” says team member Donna Yates, an archaeologist focusing on the antiquities trade in South and Central America. “We are the first academic group to have criminologists, lawyers, and archaeologists all working together.” These researchers traveled to Banteay Chhmar and five other substantially looted temple complexes in Cambodia and talked to nearby villages in hopes of assistance. Through the help of the Elders in the town they were able to track down and talk to people who witnessed or took part in the looting. Because of the religious views of karma many of them gave information about the ringleaders, which lead the team to find a former member of the Khmer Rouge as the next man up the latter. His information gave prices on the antiques they took and also the next link up the chain, the heads of an organized crime ring in Sisophon, in which it was rumored they were the cause of the two-week-long looting of Banteay Chhmar. From there the antiqities were passed to Bangkok, Thailand where the Janus Point was discovered. Janus is a Hindu God who has two different faces, one that gazed down on the criminal world and one that looked up into the world of wealthy collectors and buyers. Surprisingly there are not many steps involved from the looters to the buyers, making it a lot easier than first fathomed illusive black market, proving that with more effort the head of the snake could be cut off hopefully vanquishing the thirst for ancient antiquities(Pringle 4-5). The last effort; which should already have more effort put into it, is the crisis of the Middle East’s economy. The economy from the Middle East is detached from not only the world’s, but also from one another. However, it is a lot more easily said then done, if the blockade on Gaza was vanquished and the sanctions on Iran were demised the economy still would not prevail. “Oil importers need to replace costly fuel subsidies with targeted assistance to the poor and the creation of social safety nets. They also need to ease their dependency on external aid, reduce corruption, and make regulatory changes to encourage private-sector growth. Exporters need to reduce spending and diversify their economies. And both need to shrink their public sectors and modernize their educational systems. The United States and its allies should not only provide advice in overcoming these challenges but also incentivize regional governments to take it. That means working with regional allies that are seeking to diversify and modernize their economies, and coordinating economic aid and tying it to progress on reform, including the political steps necessary to make reforms successful.” Greater economic integration should also be a step by having america and other nations cooperate with wealthy oil producers to invest in the prosperity of their poorer neighbors and offering better access to Western markets, like the European Union (Singh 2-3). By grouping together with organizations such the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other that dedicate time and funds to the prevention of such acts(Looting in the Near Middle east). This process could allow America to lose the world police campaign and help promote long-term peace and stability(Singh 3).

   The solution to the looting problem might have more of an impact that first considered. Not only the can the end of looting ancient artifacts become real but also more extensive research in archaeology and the solution to world poverty could be a possibility if the adaptation of the Geographic Information System, the Trafficking Culture, and the diversity of economies were put into a global scale.







Looting in the Near and Middle East

mummy_coffinThe Guardian: Photograph: Sandro Vannini/SCA Sandro Vannini/Supreme Council of Antiquities

Throughout history there has always been a want and a need for what you do not have, today this same premise is demonstrated in the Middle East. Due to the amount of political and economic unrest in the Middle East, they have been under the worlds watch in more ways than one. With the uprising of gangs and more predominantly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an old phenomenon has resurfaced and has made a huge impact on these regions known as looting. ISIS is now looting the Middle East on terms of funding their military operations of the region. Archeologists fear the reoccurrence of the looting fiasco from over a decade ago from the U.S. intervention in Iraq in 2003. This hereby shed light onto a more controversial topic of whether international communities should intervene to help preserve these ancient artifacts that are so dear to the locals, region, and global community.

To date there has been little international involvement with the Middle Eastern problem of the need to protect and preserve the ancient civilizations that have been discovered or for the sites that have yet to be discovered. With the help of satellite technology, Sarah Parcak and her team have discovered images of buried and looted landscapes that in part discover buried cities, temples, and artifacts that could have never been seen with the naked eye. This is a huge help to the international community and has helped archeologists monitor activity of these sites.



While laws have been long disregarded in terms of the illegal activity of cultural artifacts inside the Middle Eastern borders and outside, there is a desperate need for a bigger solution. Now the internationally community and the museum community are working together to find a rightful way to preserve these ancient civilizations and with due time a solution stating that that they both are “calling for improved procedures at the international and federal level to prevent such practices”(Vlasic2). The need for this was seen in the United States in 2011, when three art dealers were accused of running an antiquities smuggling ring. The accused stated that they were able to lie about the place of origin, provenance, value, and the physical artifact. Apparently illegal art dealers routinely do not tell the truth of the history of ownership. Another way the international community should intervene is to establish more effective guidelines for the transfer and sale of cultural property from North America and the Middle East through more circumvent customs inspections.

So in time, to prevent this from happening, the international community should intervene to stop this horrific crime of destroying the long line of heritage these Middle Eastern countries and the world have highly regarded for generations. This can be done through mapping to locate the areas and more effective international transportation laws and establishing more effective customs inspections.


Jessica Honeycutt


Looting: The Destruction of History

Historic neighborhood burns during a military raid in 2012  Credit: www.thenational.ae
Historic neighborhood burns during a military raid in 2012
Credit: www.thenational.ae

 Throughout the history of mankind, cultures have looted from other  societies. Whether it be at times of conflict, or after a society’s collapse,  historians have traced artifacts excavated in one culture back to another  culture entirely. Today looting exists for many reasons, the primary reasons  being a means to fund political campaigns and wars and the demand of  artifacts for public and private collections. Both of these situations are  fueled completely by the high monetary value of these looted items.

The Middle East is a dotted landscape of  archaeological ruins from societies that have ceased to existed for thousands of years. Yet, their culture lives on by the stories that archaeologist can piece together through innumerable excavations. The artifacts that they uncover help teach generation after generation their story, but looting removes history behind them (Russell 29). Once an artifact is sold on the black market its’ story is forever lost, the culture it came from forgotten, and it just becomes a beautiful, ancient object to look at. Although there are many consequences that stem from looting, the most catastrophic is the rapid loss of culture occurring in the Middle East.

An arial view show the destructive nature of the looting occurring in Syria Credit: www.thenational.ae
An arial view show the destructive nature of the looting occurring in Syria
Credit: www.thenational.ae

 The illegal trade of looted artifacts in the middle east is  now compared to the diamond trafficking in some  African countries. While the diamond trade is known as  “blood diamonds,” the looting and illegal trade of  artifacts is now called “blood antiquities” or “conflict  antiquities” (Mulder 3).  Just as the diamond trade  helped African countries pay for war, the trade of  conflict antiquities is helping accomplish the same. This  causes repercussions that are detrimental to the  preservation of many ancient cultures. Once an artifact  is looted and sold, the provenience is lost. Without the  context, we lose the history and meaning of that  artifact (Russell 29). Although many people worldwide  view looting as a purely negative act, society has allowed for this to occur. Terrorist groups are an easy target to blame for the illegal trafficking of artifacts, but it must be taken into consideration that someone is purchasing these looted items. The trade of antiquities is being facilitated by buyers and sellers across Europe, the Middle East, and the United States (Mulder 2). Terrorists groups are not the only ones looting these artifacts. In some countries, such as Syria, the government is also taking part is this horrific practice (Mulder 2).

So how do we begin to stop this vicious cycle from perpetuating? There are many small steps that can help make this issue well known worldwide. In attempt to raise awareness and stop widespread looting in the Middle East, countries should encourage the United Nations to ban the sale of antiquities (Mulder 3). While a UN ban on the trade of Antiquities in countries such as Syria and Iraq may not stop looting and trafficking, it could help raise awareness of this growing epidemic. By making the general public aware of the rapid loss of culture that is occurring each day, there would be more pressure on governments to help create stricter laws stopping the trade of these antiquities.

Even though trafficking antiquities is difficult to prosecute, by letting the public know how this issue is continuing to grow can help reduce the number of artifacts that are traded. It is the history of the earliest societies that is getting lost through looting. It is our duty as earlier man’s ancestor to ensure their stories live on throughout time.

Written by: Taylor Lawhon

Looting The Ancient Middle East

When asked about the war in the Middle East, ancient dig sites aren’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind for most people. The harsh reality is, however, that militant groups are exploiting important archaeological sites all over the Middle East. The Middle East has lost many of its ancient artifacts throughout history, and is experiencing new loss due to conflict since the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003. Islamic militant groups such as ISIS and ISIL have been looting ancient sites in Syria and Iraq, but they aren’t the only ones to blame. Syrian government forces and groups affiliated to the Free Syrian Army have also been looting ancient sites (Mulder 2).

The most controversial topic surrounding the looting of ancient sites in the Middle East isn’t just who is responsible, but also who should be responsible for placing restrictions on these artifacts and their legality. An antiquities police force, created in 2008 to replace withdrawing American troops, is supposed to be responsible for protecting archaeological sites in Iraq. The antiquities police force was expected to have more than 5,000 officers by 2010, but the force’s officers totaled 106 (Myers A1). Not only the governments of these countries themselves should be held responsible for the looting, but international organizations like the UN also hold responsibility. Other than the governments and United Nations, the best way to stop the sale and distribution of looted artifacts is at the museums and with the dealers.

Credit: Andy Daily
Credit: Andy Daily







Looting has been and will be around forever, but could be greatly impacted using the appropriate methods. The international community could lessen looting through strong restrictions on the sale of antiquities. These restrictions can be enforced by the UN, national governments of the Middle Eastern countries, and the museums that collect the antiquities (Mulder 4). The UN or national government of the country the artifact(s) is from should take the lead on the trafficking of these artifacts. These governments should place strict policies on what antiquities can be exported, and give the dealers of the antiquities official export licenses. The UN, like it did with Iraq, could ban the sale of antiquities from Syria. Museums and galleries might have the biggest responsibility regarding the market for looted items. Museums often look over or don’t look into the trail behind an artifact. Museums are actively purchasing looted artifacts, resulting in an increase in demand of these artifacts. Museums could place responsibility on the dealers to prove the artifacts were legally attained by demanding an official export license from the country of origin (Mulder 4). Failure to comply with this demand could result in punishment, like a hefty fine, from the UN.

Starting with the national governments of the countries where the looting is taking place is a crucial point for the fight against looting. Once the national governments and the UN implement stricter policies on what antiquities can be exported and sold, the battle against museums and dealers will be much easier won. Though looting may never be completely prevented, starting at the source and working outward to the museums and dealers can greatly lessen the demand for looted antiquities.

Myers, Steven. “Iraq’s Ancient Ruins Face New Looting.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 25 June 2010. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.<http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/26/world/middleeast/26looting.html?_r=0>.

Jesse Busby

Resolving Looting in the Near and Middle East


Iraqi guards walk in the ransacked and looted Iraq's largest archeological museum in Baghdad, 13 April 2003.
Iraqi guards walk in the ransacked and looted Iraq’s largest archeological museum in Baghdad, 13 April 2003. < ://rt.com/op-edge/iraq-war-cultural-artifacts-553/ >

There are a lot of issues concerning the Middle East, but many do not realize that one of the major problems is looting. Since Middle Eastern countries do not have stable enough governments to maintain their historical sites and museums, thieves have overrun them. The economic poverty of these areas has led to more theft and damages, and warfare in these countries left the sites even more vulnerable to looting. In 2003, the National Museum in Baghdad was broken into and many artifacts were stolen (Kennedy). This invasion opened up the eyes of the world on how serious looting could be for the history of these areas. Though looting had been a large problem for many years before this invasion, it awoke the problem on an international level. As American troops began to leave Iraq in the past couple of years, it left these sites once again vulnerable for the public to invade. It is clear that the issue of looting has become very predominant over the past couple of years and needs to be resolved before an abundance of our history is lost. There is a couple of ways that foreign and domestic resources can help prevent looting of which mapping out these exposed sites and providing security, seem to be the most effective.

A crucial way in helping handle looting is being able to map out the areas, which are being targeted. Kennedy reveals a project that the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles helped Jordians build. It is a web- based system that allows archaeologists to gain access to records of sites in Jordan. This web-based system was named MEGA (Middle Eastern Geodatabase for Antiquities) which was launched in 2007 in both English and Arabic languages (Kennedy). Google earth satellite obtains a lot of the images for the site and truly shows the shocking scale of rudimentary holes covering large amounts of land. Not only does this give archaeologist a common ground to report looting, but it is done in an efficient manner to track thieves, record damages and react quickly. It is hard to contain looting when it is already on such a large scale, however this mapping method allows for it to be monitored internationally.



Another main issue that renders a lot of these sites to become susceptible to looting is the lack of security. This is a much tougher aspect to resolve, because if the governments are not stable or strong enough to enforce security it is hard to regulate. For instance, the Dhi Qar Governorate Council reported that of the approximately 1,200 archaeological sites, only 200 guards monitor them (Dennehy). Clearly, this is not enough security to even cover a small fraction of these sites. Though, this council has called on the authorities to bring in more security, it has not been accomplished. If the governments could establish a more abundant supply of guards to the sites it could help lower the amount of looting.

There are many ways to look at the issue of looting and how to go about resolving it. Mapping is a more passive route to monitoring looting and keeping up to date with damages of areas that have more of a concern at the moment. Providing more security at museums and archaeological sites is a more active way to prevent looting. Both do not completely resolve the situation but they allow steps to be taken to help improve the situation.


Kennedy, Randy. “In History-Rich Region, a Very New System Tracks Very Old Things.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 Aug. 2010. Web. 03 Feb. 2015.


Dennehy, John. “Stealing from History: The Looting and Destruction of Iraqi and Syrian Heritage Concern Us All | The National.” Looting of Heritage Sites Stealing History from Syria and Iraq. N.p., 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 03 Feb. 2015.

Looting Issues in the Near and Middle East

Ziggurat in Iraq
Ziggurat in Iraq

Looting of artifacts within the Middle East has long since been an issue that appears to have no foreseeable resolution. This epidemic even dates back over thousands of years, such as during the ancient Mesopotamian era. A prime example of this relates to the stele of King Naram-Sin of Akkad, which was taken as war plunder and relocated in Susa, Iran. It was also interestingly one of the first known art pieces to be looted in war. With this set understanding that looting has occurred essentially since human existence, a particular point that two articles published in Art Journal by Zainab Bahrani and John Malcolm Russell touched upon was the well-publicized looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad in April of 2003. Another article in Al Jazeera that was written by Stephennie Mulder discussed lootings and the illegal sale of those artifacts, which she referred to as “blood antiquities,” that occurred in Syria and Iraq. All of that being said, if certain necessary steps are taken, these issues on theft could gradually begin to be resolved.

Stele of Narim-Sin
Stele of Narim-Sin

What may be viewed as the central argument within the aforementioned readings would be whether there are any known means to restrict the looting, and if so, what measures should be taken up to resolve the problem. Both the Russell and Bahrani articles were featured in the same magazine, so they addressed numerous commonalities, such as the cultural and personal significance behind these stolen artifacts and their relationship to their points of origin, whereas the Mulder article was a bit more technical, tackling the political side to these looting issues. A general agreement that all of these articles did seem to reach regarded the meaning behind the artifacts. It was not just the tragedy of losing irreplaceable artifacts, but more about the significance behind them. These items represented the country’s heritage and the people’s identities; therefore, once they were ripped unceremoniously from their locations, that identity was seemingly lost forever. With all of that said, personally, I feel that a clear way to truly begin to put an end to these lootings and thefts so as to preserve these meaningful objects would be via stricter security on the exportation of goods in and out of these countries, so as to better track the objects. To achieve such a feat, it seems clear that the economic and political situations in this region would need to be improved upon before any major changes could commence. To appropriately achieve more stringent security regarding the exportation of these goods, tracking systems within museums and airports would need to be implemented, or at the very least updated, as well as an overall governmental adjustment to curtail any further economic crises within the Middle East. These are not simple tasks to be done overnight; however, if other countries and institutions could step up and lend a hand, a remarkable difference could be underway.

My first point that I intend to expound upon pertains to the security within institutions, such as museums and airports. As Mulder points out in her article entitled The Blood Antiquities Funding ISIL, the real place that looting affects is in quiet showrooms and museums. On the final page, she says that by auction houses playing up connections of lost or endangered objects simply to boost sales, they are condoning this looting problem, simply to make a profit. “Collectors who imagine they are saving the artifacts from a worse fate delude themselves: Objects summarily ripped from the ground disappear into private collections and lose their ability to speak as material voices of history, robbed of the context that careful excavation by archaeologists and curation by museums can provide” (Mulder 4). I bring all of this in to relate it to my point on current lax regulations in airports and auction houses or museums, where these stolen artifacts are often headed. The looters themselves certainly do not care about the historical or cultural value behind the artifacts and monuments that they take; all they care about is making a profit off of the situation. Mulder briefly touches on this subject, which made me want to investigate further into security regulations and laws, and it certainly seems that there could be stricter protocols where these artifacts are concerned. I am obviously no expert on such matters; however, I feel that heightened security surrounding these artifacts could very well stop the lootings before they occur. If they did still continue to happen, hopefully a tracking system of sorts would be in place so as to know exactly where they are heading and stop the object’s departure, as well as pinpoint precisely what groups instigated the thefts. An effective way to know if an object has in fact been legally obtained would be through official export licenses from the countries in question so as to properly determine whether it should leave the country or not.

The second point that relates to looting that could be changed would be improving the economies and governments within the Middle East. This is certainly not a feat that could be easily achieved or even welcomed with open arms. Despite this, it seems that a change in their economy would vastly improve this situation, because the people could afford to have tightened security, and possibly less corruption so as to stop the crimes before they ever occur.

Warka Vase
Warka Vase

Bahrani and Russell said these lootings were not simply thefts of precious artifacts, but a destruction of the country’s identity and heritage. In what I think is an interesting excerpt from the Bahrani article, she says, “The reason that international laws on cultural heritage (such as the Hague Convention) exist is precisely because people’s sense of communal identity is defined in relation to a shared culture and history” (Bahrani 13). This quote stood out to me because she is clearly stating that the looters took more than just inanimate objects, but the people’s identities as well. Therefore, reforming the economy would drastically reduce these crimes, therein preserving their rich heritage. As pointed out in a New York Times article, President Obama was quoted as saying that Iraqi Sunnis are “detached from the global economy,” with which the author, Michael Singh, seems to generally agree (Singh Paragraphs 1 and 2). Singh goes on to say that the economies of the Middle East only account for just over four percent of global imports, which incidentally is even less than they did in the 1980s (Singh Paragraph 3). This all clearly alludes to the fact that the economies within this region need to be improved, so as to create a better environment and less potential room for crime. One of the ideas that Singh listed as a potential way to change their economy would be in relation to oil. He says, “America should also promote greater economic integration by cooperating with wealthy oil producers to invest in the prosperity of their poorer neighbors, and by offering Middle Eastern states better access to Western markets, especially the European Union” (Singh Paragraph 15). This is possibly one of the simplest ideas, yet I personally feel it is a strong one. By offering these states access to Western markets, they would not have to rely so heavily upon oil sales, thereby drastically changing the way their economy operates. The article continued to discuss the ways in which radical change could occur, and what steps could be taken to improve it. Singh said, “Oil importers need to replace costly fuel subsidies with targeted assistance to the poor and the creation of social safety nets,” […] “…ease their dependency on external aid, reduce corruption, and make regulatory changes to encourage private-sector growth” (Singh Paragraph 13).

To appropriately achieve more stringent security regarding the exportation of these goods, tracking systems within museums and airports would need to be implemented, or at the very least updated, as well as an overall governmental adjustment to curtail any further economic crises within the Middle East. One specific idea that I mentioned was in relation to instituting a stronger, more detailed tracking system on the objects being exported, as well as better checking on proper exportation paperwork, so hopefully the artifacts would only be allowed to leave the original location by legal means. Another idea was improving the Middle East’s fragmented economies, through means such as access to different markets so as to lessen the pressure on oil sales. While these ideas may not be the absolute solution to handling looting and destruction of precious artifacts in the Middle East, they are certainly a promising start.



Works Cited

Mulder, Stephennie. “The Blood Antiquities Funding ISIL.” Al Jazeera. November 14, 2014. Accessed February 2, 2015.

Bahrani, Zainab. “The Real Middle East Crisis is Economic.” Art Journal 62, no. 4 (Winter 2003): 10-17.

Russell, John Malcolm. “Why Should We Care?” Art Journal 62, no. 4 (Winter 2003): 22-29.

Singh, Michael. “Iraq’s Cultural Heritage: Monuments, History, and Loss.” New York Times. August 14, 2014. Accessed February 2, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/20/opinion/the-real-middle-east-crisis-is-economic.html?_r=1.

Looting in the Near and Middle East

Looting in the Near and Middle East


The act of looting seems to stem from the outbreak of war, or by conflict that can cause chaos. Claims are made that the appropriation of obtaining material due to this chaos can be a viewed in a positive light as well as in a very negative one. In order to see both sides of the argument, information on the subject and actions are needed. Looting can be seen as either just an activity that is based off of naive motivation, or as an act that is based on preconceived notions. Notable acts of looting have been seen in many forms, and need to be broken down into their most primal forms to be fully understood.

Though looting is a common outcome of heated or armed conflict, it has not received much academics attention in the study of why, or the overall outcome of these acts. (MacGinty 857) The academic community views looting in three main categories. Category one; is simply the view that it is a by-product that shouldn’t be viewed as a topic worth discussing. Category two; views looting as a way to retain once lost materials, or regaining appropriately and deserved objects. Which seems to have a large gray area within this study that leave much up to individual interoperation. The third category of investigation into looting is purely a greed-based idea that seems underdeveloped such as the act itself. In order to view these three ideas as accurate, I suggest grouping all ideals together to say that looting in general should be viewed only as a negative act.

As the main focus of the Collier and Moeffler defense group suggests, viewing looting as a product of conflict is not enough to bring these acts to a halt (MacGinty 858) Which brings up the question; in which way can the act of looting and the outcome of looters actions be limited, or dealt with? To answer questions like these, it is important to view both sides of the argument. Some do believe that it is their right, or that their actions of looting are just. These are common thoughts placed upon those who show no remorse, or see no negative outcome of their actions. Sarah Parcak suggests a possible solution to these acts in her positional piece Satellite Remote Sensing Methods for Monitoring Archaeological Tells in the Middle East. She states that a protocol must be made to monitor archaeological sites and nearby active regions. By organizing a system such as this, the act of looting would be more steadfastly viewed in a negative light, which in turn could lead to the decrease in these actions. Questions may be raised upon this solution that bring up more question than it provides answers. Such as the fact that most looting occurs during militant action, or by conflict related events. The main focus of power and defense may not be able to keep an eye on sites of historical worth.

Global Heritage Fund
Global Heritage Fund

This leaves the answer to institutions that could potentially profit from the actions of looting. In order to decrease the market for items as these, the thief must not be rewarded for their action, which in turn will refrain actions as such. Collections connected to the well being of historical integrity and academic research should understand the history of the work, and how the work was discovered. By grouping together with organizations such the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other that dedicate time and funds to the prevention of such acts. By building awareness, and preventing the sale of these objects, the market will diminish as well as the acts itself.

CHASING APHRODITE The Hunt for Looted Antiquities in the World's Museums
The Hunt for Looted Antiquities in the World’s Museums

To grasp the full idea of the act of looting, as well as the outcome, one needs to view the whole story. The history behind the work, the act of locating the work, and the way that the work was brought to the attention of the current market. By concentrating efforts and resources, the act of looting could be wiped clean from our vocabulary.














Works Cited

Mac Ginty, Roger. Looting in the Context of Violent Conflict: A Conceptualisation and Typology. Third World Quarterly .Vol. 25, No. 5 (2004) , pp. 857-870. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3993697


McCadams, Robert. Contexts of Iraqi Looting. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society Vol. 149, No. 1 (Mar., 2005) , pp. 56-62. American Philosophical Society. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4598908


Parcak, Sarah. Satellite Remote Sensing Methods for Monitoring Archaeological Tells in the Middle East, Journal of Field Archaeology . Vol. 32, No. 1 (Spring, 2007) , pp. 65-81. Maney Publishing. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40026043

By: Brad Hahn. University of Alabama 2015