The Case of Syria and Iraq
Edited By Lorenzo Kamel
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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