• Is the Looting Really Over?

    Martin Bailey strikes again, with an interview with Dr Abbas al-Husseini, described as “the leading archaeologist in Iraq,” who tells readers of the Art Newspaper that “looting is over”. Bailey’s new piece is a followup on an article earlier this summer that as he notes “generated considerable controversy” because it suggested that no post-2003 looting had occurred. Though the article spins Abbas’ comments as corroborating this view, at least now the Art Newspaper has admitted that some looting went on after 2003. The position now is that, in Abbas’ words, looting did occur post-2003, though it “declined very considerably in 2004 and has diminished yet more since then.” Paul Barford, fellow SAFEcorner blogger, is right to see this as cognitive progress of sorts. Still, the overall message to readers is: relax, looting is no longer a problem, since “professional looting has ended.” But there is reason to treat Dr Abbas’ claims, as reported by Mr Bailey, with some skepticism…. To read more, go to The Punching Bag

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  • Iraq, the "looting of sites is over"?

    Martin Bailey in an article in last month’s issue of the Art Newspaper proclaimed loudly “Archaeological sites in south Iraq have not been looted, say experts”. This month the Art Newspaper carried a further article on the subject by Martin Bailey who dryly notes “Our article generated considerable controversy, provoking strong reactions from both ends of the political spectrum”.

    In order to substantiate his earlier interpretation of the information, Bailey has now phoned Dr Abbas al-Husseini, former chairman of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities now based in Al Qadisiyah University in Diwaniya who is characterised as the leading archaeologist in the country. Dr al-Husseini talked with the Art Newspaper reporter about the looting that had taken place in Iraq since the 1990s and which had become severe in 2003. He said that the scale of this activity had considerably declined in 2004 and he ...

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  • Looted, trafficked, and sold – "Nostoi" gives artifacts a homecoming welcome

    Meet 74 cultural treasures that were ripped from their places of origin, without regard for their archaeological or cultural significance, and sent on an illicit journey: sold to private collectors and prestigious museums as mere art objects, before, finally, being recovered and returned home. These are the 74 objects that make up the exhibition “Nostoi: Recovered Masterpieces,” currently on display at the Palazzo Poli in Rome. The exhibit features items previously held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Getty Museum, and Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, among others. It is designed as a homecoming celebration for artifacts that were looted from Italy, but, following many long legal battles, have been returned from the institutions and individuals that had acquired them illicitly.

    SAFE is pleased to see such a landmark exhibit on display, and is proud to offer our own SAFE Tours in both ...

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  • Why coins matter: Trafficking in undocumented and illegally exported ancient coins in the North American marketplace


    Ancient coins are among the most widely collected and demanded objects among American collectors of antiquities. A vocal lobby of ancient coin dealers/collectors has arisen to protect the importation of undocumented material into the United States and also seeks to make a distinction between antiquities trafficking and that in ancient coins. Coins are an equally important historical source and are no less important ‘antiquities’ than a Greek painted vase. I examine the scale of the trade in ancient coins in North America and address some points made by proponents of a continued unfettered ancient coin trade.

    An overview of ancient coin collecting

    The collecting of ancient coins as an avocation has existed since at least the Renaissance, an outgrowth of the antiquarian movement that originated withPetrarch (1304-74). However, the ancients also collected and exchanged coins for reasons that had nothing to do with commerce. For example, the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus (63 BC – AD 14), was known to have collected coins, which ...

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