Now for Sale on Facebook: Looted Middle Eastern Antiquities

Ancient treasures pillaged from battle zones within the Middle East are being supplied for sale on Facebook, researchers say, together with objects which will have been looted by Islamic State militants.

Facebook teams promoting the objects grew quickly through the upheaval of the Arab Spring and the following wars, which created unprecedented alternatives for traffickers, stated Amr Al-Azm, a professor of Middle East historical past and anthropology at Shawnee State University in Ohio and a former antiquities official in Syria. He has monitored the commerce for years alongside along with his colleagues on the Athar Project, named for the Arabic phrase for antiquities.

At the identical time, Dr. Al-Azm stated, social media lowered the boundaries to entry to . Now there are at the least 90 Facebook teams related to the unlawful commerce in Middle Eastern antiquities, with tens of hundreds of members, he stated.

They typically publish objects or inquiries within the group, then take the dialogue into chat or WhatsApp messaging, making it troublesome to trace. Some customers flow into requests for sure kinds of objects, offering an incentive for traffickers to supply them, a state of affairs that Dr. Al-Azm referred to as “loot-to-order.”

Others publish detailed directions for aspiring looters on tips on how to find archaeological websites and dig up treasures.

Items for sale embody a bust purportedly taken from the traditional metropolis of Palmyra, which was occupied for intervals by Islamic State militants and endured heavy looting and damage.

Leila A. Amineddoleh, a lawyer in New York who specializes in art and cultural heritage, said that determining the provenance of looted items can be arduous, presenting an obstacle for lawyers and academics alike.

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