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.