Art And Culture

US Collectors Warned Not to Buy IS Plundered Artifacts

US Collectors Warned Not to Buy IS Plundered ArtifactsUS Collectors Warned Not to Buy IS Plundered Artifacts

Art dealers and collectors should be careful when buying items from the Middle East, the FBI warned on Thursday.

The Islamic State’s looted ancient artifacts are showing up in the US marketplace, and proceeds from sales could help fund the terrorist organization’s activities, the FBI said.

“We now have credible reports that US persons have been offered cultural property that appears to have been removed from Syria and Iraq recently,” said Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, manager of the FBI’s Art Theft Program, Reuters reported.

“We don’t want to say don’t buy anything at all. There’s a lot of legitimate material circulating in the marketplace. What we’re trying to say is, don’t allow these pieces that could potentially support terrorism to be part of the trade,” she said.

As well as the moral concern, collectors could also face criminal charges. Those caught paying for objects stolen by ISIL could be prosecuted under government counterterrorism laws.

US museums have subjected acquisitions to higher scrutiny in recent years, but archaeologists concerned about the theft of cultural treasures - whether art stolen during the Holocaust or relics from Syria and Iraq - say that public awareness of the issue needs to stay high. Much of the looting of precious artifacts in Iraq and Syria actually pre-dates the destruction wrought by ISIL.

As part of a broad US government response, the Department of State earlier published satellite imagery showing industrial-level looting at Syrian and Iraqi archaeological sites. In a May raid in Syria, US Special Operations Forces recovered a significant cache of archaeological and historical objects and fragments.

According to the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, “The cache represents significant primary evidence of looting at archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq, theft from regional museums, and the stockpiling of these spoils for likely sale on the international market.”

Types of objects subject to looting appear in the International Council of Museums’ (ICOM) Red Lists of antiquities at risk posted on the State Department website, where collectors and dealers can view and learn to recognize the kinds of objects that have been looted from cultural sites, stolen from museums and churches, and illicitly trafficked.