Friday, February 17, 2012

Batten Down the Hatches!

A Greek museum containing major antiquities is looted: "Two armed robbers broke into an Olympia Museum and made off with between 60 to 70 bronze and clay pottery objects. They tied up and gagged the female security guard before using hammers to smash display cases and grab the loot."

What can we learn from this? The key lesson is that the mere fact that artifacts are in a museum and recorded is not going to deter criminals who believe they are worth a lot of money on the black market. The criminals may be too stupid to know that fencing these hot objects may be difficult because a recorded artifact on the Art Loss Register or the like is almost certain to eventually be spotted if they come onto the auction house market or get donated to a museum. Or the criminals may be smart enough to have already set up a deal with a middleman or with a collector. Either way,the point is clear: antiquities cannot be protected only by a registry, if an illicit market exists.

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