Detail of an Assyrian relief from Nimrud showing horses and horsemen of the royal chariot, 725 BCE. Image Source: Steven Vidler/Eurasia Press/Corbis via The Guardian.
Breadcrumbs in the forest: last fall, while looking for Indian silk fabric on eBay, I noticed Syrian daggers for sale, scattered creepily in between the silk listings. Were they antiquities? For some time, reports that the Islamic State have been selling and destroying the precious archaeological and historical cultural heritage of the Near East. On 26 February 2015, after pledging a year ago that they would not do so, they destroyed Mosul's antiquities museum and library, displayed in sickening videos (below). In early March 2015, after looting the ancient palace, they bulldozed the antique city of Nimrud. The Guardian:
"Nimrud, about 20 miles south of Mosul, was built around 1250 BC. Four centuries later it became the capital of the neo-Assyrian empire – at the time the most powerful state on Earth, extending to modern-day Egypt, Turkey and Iran."
Destruction par l'EI des ruines assyriennes de Nimroud http://t.co/A6ZjSSi6Us pic.twitter.com/dD4YJR6rKx
— Following Hadrian (@carolemadge) March 5, 2015
|Ruins of Hatra.|
"Hatra of course will be next," he added, referring to a 2,000-year-old UNESCO-listed site about 100 kilometres south of Mosul known for its beautifully preserved temples blending Hellenistic, Roman and Eastern influences."And on 7 March 2015, BBC reported that Hatra had just been demolished by Islamic State. Shortly after, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS. Their "artifacts mafia" are making millions upon millions through the sale of antiquities: in Tel Abyad on the Syrian-Turkish border; in Kilis, Turkey; in London, Munich and Brussels; and in other European capitals. With cold hard cash from antiquities sales, the Islamic State fighters are arming themselves to the teeth. They have scrounged weapons originating from China, Russia and the United States ("some were even made at a major U.S. munitions plant in Missouri"). They are buying weapons in black markets in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and Eastern Europe and Iran. There is much stock-taking of their military equipment. Regular munitions and tanks: reports here, here, here, here, here and here. Chemical weapons: here, here and here. Nuclear materials: here, here and here. And, with a twist on US weapons airdrops, here - is the real story this, or this?
The Telegraph suggested on 6 March 2015 that the price of oil has been manipulated down to cut off Islamic State's oil refinery revenues, and in desperation IS are turning more and more to the plunder of antiquities to make money.