3.23.2009

Antiquities, Archaeology and Con Men ....

There's a con to do with collecting antiquities which seems to have been going on ....
A couple of collectors have told me it's been tried on them. For legal reasons I don't want to mention the name of the dubious European 'ex-smuggler' with a tendency to make wild allegations - but which a lot of archaeologists and collectors will guess - who seems to be one of two people whose names keep coming up.

I'm writing about it for two reasons:
1) If my name is being used so, probably, are the names of other archaeologists, and:
2) I'm hoping that victims of his attempts at extortion Google my name and the key words in this post, see this and don't fall for it.

I wrote a tongue in cheek post about Looting Baghdad Museum as I don't know how else to respond to some rather wild 'conspiracy' theories which seem to originate with two self-styled 'ex-smugglers'.
Having done a little digging around, there seem to be three main versions which apparently originate with them:

Story One - I was part of a conspiracy to start the war in Iraq so that my friends and I could loot Baghdad Museum; I presume we also did 9/11 (?). All I can say is that someone has watched a few too many movies.

Story Two - I am the reliable and unimpeachable source for the con men's information that a person (he's apparently tried this con a few times, with various antiquities dealers or collectors as his claimed 'bad guys') smuggled material from Baghdad Museum out of Iraq and sold it in assorted countries. And 'my' 'proof' seems to be being used to attempt to extort them. The two stories are contradictory.

Story Three - Another journalist told me of a variant, originating from the same European 'ex smuggler' - which also seems to be the reason he has been quiet lately - where he was claiming that he could prove that the Sevso Hoard had been smuggled out of Yugoslavia. Apparently, even though I was in primary school in France in 1980 when it began to surface in London, I too was the 'source' for his information.

I consider myself lucky that the Serbian gentlemen that came after him did not also come after me. It worries me a great deal that someone will believe the wild allegations being made, and come after me or another archaeologist - since I don't imagine that antiquities smugglers are the nicest of people. Some people seem to be under the mistaken impression that archaeologists keep lots of antiquities at home, and so archaeologists are worth burgling. It would be worse if some dubious gentlemen thought that archaeologists needed to be silenced.

I do not have any proof of any smuggling by art dealers or collectors of material from Baghdad Museum or anywhere else. If I did, then I would have passed the information on to the relevant person at the correct agency to investigate the allegation - not a con man. The same applies to every reputable archaeologist I know.

If you are a collector or antiquities dealer, and if someone is trying to extort money from you by claiming that he has proof which I gave him that you smuggle archaeological material ... then please ignore him as the 'proof' does not exist. It's a con - a little more sophisticated than those Nigerian emails, but still just a con. And ideally drop me an email as I know a few lawyers who are very interested in this.

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