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Collapse and Rebirth of Cultural Heritage

The Case of Syria and Iraq


Edited By Lorenzo Kamel

Cultural heritage and illicit trafficking in the Middle East are two key topics of our time.  The  book  sheds  light  on  both  aspects,  and  identifies  the  need  to  democratize  cultural heritage, by giving greater control to local communities. It also investigates the link between local hotbeds of conflict and violence in countries such as Syria and Iraq,  as  well  as  war  economics,  transnational  criminal  networks  and  the  politics  of  deliberate destruction and theft of cultural heritage. Finally, the chapters analyze the impact  of  non-violent  and  violent  non-state  actors,  fragile  states,  forced  migration,  environmental  degradation,  as  well  as  how  local  and  international  institutions  have  reacted to the dramatic events which the region and its inhabitants have experienced in recent years
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Chapter 5: The Role of Academia in Enabling the Illicit Antiquities Market: The Damage to Iraq’s Cultural Heritage (Abdul Salam Taha)


Abdul Salam Taha

Chapter 5: The Role of Academia in Enabling the Illicit Antiquities Market: The Damage to Iraq’s Cultural Heritage

Scholars from all over the world are engaged in debates over the study and publication of unprovenanced artefacts and the loss of knowledge that results when the archaeological context of artefacts is unknown.1 Academics from various disciplines regularly come into contact during the course of their research with traded cultural objects that are unprovenanced. Even if such artefacts carry historical information that is to some degree independent of their provenance, the extent of this information outside the object’s archaeological context is limited. Experts who follow the flow of objects on the antiquities market are concerned not only with context and provenance but also with broader issues such as ownership history and the impact that the academic study of unprovenanced artefacts has on the antiquities market.

The aim of this chapter is to draw attention to the involvement of academic experts with the antiquities trade. It uses a series of case studies to illustrate how academic studies facilitate and enable the acquisition of antiquities with no provenance history, support illicit antiquity market actors and increase the price value of such antiquities. The main focus here is to examine the forms of involvement of academics who study ancient artefacts and explore how, through their research, they associate with antiquities collectors and dealers, thereby helping the trade, albeit indirectly. To investigate the parameters of this facilitation,...

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