Confirmed: Antiquities Smuggling from Syria

These are snaps of the Palmyran head that an undercover Sunday Times reporter posing as an antiquities buyer was offered in Beirut. And of her dusting off one of the other heads Hala Jaber was offered.

It is one of 11 Palmyran busts they were offered by a dealer calling himself Abu Khaled, along with a dozen Roman capitals. Those items could all have been stolen from archaeological sites but many other smaller items they were offered confirm the story of the Apamea satellite photos - the Syrians are digging holes at archaeological sites and looting them badly.

The article is behind a pay wall but the story is that The Sunday Times did a sting with a journalist posing as an art dealer - presumably the co-author of the piece, George Arbuthnott.

The other pieces they were offered include a carved pillar, third century glass and a lachrymatory. The dealer claimed they were smuggled through the Abboudieh-Dabbousieh crossing, and admitted of several items: "These were dug out from the ground"

Palmyra aka Tadmor (as the looter called it) was hit by shelling in recent months, and there were videos of people possibly taking heads last year.

[Apologies for the disjointed via Blackberry post. If anyone wants to use the photos, just right click and save them.]

UPDATE - the second photo here is clearly a stock photo, as is clear in the higher resolution photo with the article online here (£).


  1. Thanks Dorothy. The second 'dusting off' photograph, however, looks as if it was taken inside a tomb, in situ, and not at all in a dealer's shop. Has the Sunday Times mis-captioned this? What do you think?

  2. I thought that too ... looking at it again, the lady looks asian, and it is not Hala Jaber (I Googled her photo). The article says she was given a brush to brush off dirt but yes, the second photo looks like a stock image.

    The first photo is credited to Jaber, and it says in the article they had photos which they emailed to experts and Art Loss Register etc. I wish they'd share the other photos as ... well it would be nice to know what to look out for

  3. For the Apamea photos you can realize the looting and digging via http://paul-barford.blogspot.ca/2013/05/looting-and-conflict-in-syria-do-you.html.

    These are horrible photographs.

  4. Yes, I posted the satelite photo the other day - luckily museums that were not destroyed seem to be "whole" (possibly as the items are too identifiable?)


I do not moderate comments, but I remove spam, overt self-promotion ("read [link] my much better post on this") and what I consider hate speech (racism, homophobia etc).

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.