Friday, October 26, 2012

Looting on Demand, Shipping Included!

ICE announces the return to Mexico of more than 4,000 antiquities. While it is not clear from the press release what the time frame is within which these pieces were seized, the dates indicated imply that the period is probably 2009 onward. Most interesting is the level of detail the ICE offers about how, why, and for whom such artifacts are being smuggled. Some were seized coming over the Mexican border, but others were discovered in cargo being shipped from Sweden to San Diego, or even from Chicago.

One detail sheds important light on the way in which archaeological looting in poorer "source" countries is driven by the demand side in wealthy "market" countries -- and not just spontaneously, but in some cases intentionally as an organized business:

HSI special agents seized 26 pieces of pottery greater than 1,500 years-old following an investigation in Kalispell, Mont., regarding a consignor who had paid members of the Tarahumara tribe to loot artifacts from burial caves in the Copper Canyon area of Chihuahua, Mexico, so he could consign them in a local art gallery.

No comments: