Syrian Antiquities for sale on Facebook

Stephanie Cooper and DI Marks would have been saddened, but not surprised at recent news reports of looted Syrian antiquities being bought and sold through groups using Facebook.

Facebook has removed a number of groups following a BBC investigation. The latest threat appears to be from loot-to-order smugglers with mafia style networks set up to control the trade. Discussions in the groups on how to illegally excavate items have culminated in Roman mosaics, still in the ground, being offered for sale.


Photo credit: Iyad Al Ghafari

A number of organisations are working to try to halt the looting of the country’s cultural heritage, but they are facing a battle on many fronts; from individuals looking to make quick money, to more organised criminal groups, and from what UNESCO has described as “looting on an industrial scale” by Islamic State.

In The Carlswick Mythology, looted artefacts from the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra are discovered in Greece before being smuggled first to Switzerland and then Rome, as part of an organised criminal network. As recent news stories show, reality is no stranger than fiction.

On a positive note, a recent innovation has been the development of a solution, which when painted on artefacts is invisible to the naked eye, but detectable under ultra violet light, making many antiquities traceable. It is hoped that this may act as a deterrent to both smugglers and private collectors wary of prosecution.

Hunt for Degas looted by the Nazis

Nazi looted art and its modern day repercussions are at the heart of the first three novels in The Carlswick Mysteries series. The hunt to recover looted art continues to this day. In an article this week in The Guardian, the Rosenberg heirs discuss their attempts at recovering a looted Degas belonging to their grandfather, renowned Parisian Jewish art dealer Paul Rosenberg, and the difficulties they face. You can read the article here.

Illegal trafficking of cultural artefacts

In what is being described as a 'hard blow against the illegal trafficking of cultural goods' Europol, the European Law Enforcement Agency, announced in a press release that on July 4th, that more than 250 police officers detained 23 suspects and seized EUR 40 million worth of looted archaeological items.

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The joint operation was initiated four years ago by a special unit of the Italian Carabinieri and was supported by officers from the Spanish Guarda, British Metropolitan Police and German Police. Members of the criminal gang are alleged to have illegally excavated and trafficked cultural relics to be sold at auction houses in Germany.

The scale of the looting and destruction of ancient historic sites in Europe and the Middle East is astonishing, as criminal networks turn to this lucrative source of income to finance their terrorist and criminal activities. Perhaps most shocking are the before and after images showing the scale of the looting in parts of Iraq and Syria, where the after aerial photos show historic sites, such as Apamea, pockmarked by holes where looters have roughly excavated whatever ancient relics they can find to sell.

In a case of life imitating art, my soon to be released novel, The Carlswick Mythology, finds Stephanie and James caught up in the trafficking of artefacts from the conflict zone of Syria to willing buyers in Europe...

Nazi looted art horde to go on display

The astonishing discovery of a horde of works of art that had been forcibly taken and sold by the Nazis before and during World War II, happened while I was researching for The Carlswick Affair in 2013. The discovery at the home of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi art dealer and collector, once again highlighted how many items still remain unaccounted for today.  Around 1,500 works, including pieces by Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne and Otto Dix were discovered by tax inspectors in Gurlitt's two houses.

Now, two exhibitions of these works are opening

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