Conflict Antiquities: Forging a Public/Private Response to Save Iraq and Syria’s Endangered Cultural Heritage

Symposium: Conflict Antiquities: Forging a Public/Private Response to Save Iraq and Syria’s Endangered Cultural Heritage

29 September 2015, 4.30pm – 7.00pm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, America
Organisers: The Department of State and The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Panel discussions will highlight the connection between ISIL’s looting and trafficking of antiquities and the financing of its terrorist operations; emphasize the importance of effective international law enforcement action to curb the activities of traffickers, and unscrupulous dealers and collectors; identify practical ways to share information and documentation on the looting and destruction of Iraqi and Syrian archeological and historical sites; and forge public-private education and advocacy campaigns about best practices for museums, collectors, and auction houses around the world. Presentations will provide new evidence that ISIL is looting for profit and discuss a new initiative to combat the trade in conflict antiquities.”

  • Videos of the event are available here.

A summary of the event, written by Charles E Jones, is available with links to more information, on the Ancient World Online Blog. A pdf of his summary can be downloaded here. His commentary is inserted below. A second summary, by Lynda Albertson, is available on the ARCA blog. A pdf of the summary can be downloaded here.

In addition, the American Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has released videos, slides and documents relating to the event, all of which are available here on their website. These include the slides of the documents relating to the raid on the ISIS leader, provided with translations.

Morag Kersel assembled the Twitter traffic on the hashtag #HeritageInPeril as follows: A Symposium on Conflict Antiquities: September 29 [2015] MET/State Department sponsored, by Morag M. Kersel

Opening speakers include

  • Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken (VIDEO HERE)
  • Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Thomas P. Campbell (VIDEO HERE). Among other things he highlighted the Nimrud ivory looted from the Mosul Museum. [n.b. Eight volumes of final publications of Ivories from Nimrud are available online, open access], and recovered in the Abu Sayyaf raid.
  • UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova
  • followed by two panels.

Speakers on the first panel on “Looting and Destruction of Iraqi and Syrian Cultural Heritage; What We Know, What Can Be Done” will be:

  • Michael Danti, American Schools of Oriental Research, summarised the issues based on their work
  • Andrew Keller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, Department of State. Presented on  Documenting ISIL’s Antiquities Trafficking and presented new details of information gathered in the Abu Sayyaf raid. His slides are available here.
  • Robert Hartung, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Department of State
  • Lev Kubiak, Assistant Director, International Operations, Homeland Security Investigations, Department of Homeland Security
  • Richard W. Downing, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Mauro Miedico, Chief of Section, Terrorism Prevention Branch, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Jones:  The remaining members of the panel presented a variety of activities of law enforcement agencies. In particular it was noted the Rewards for Justice program is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the significant disruption of the sale and/or trade of oil and antiquities by the Islamic State.

Speakers on the second panel on “The Role of Private Institutions and Collectors in Fostering Best Practices and Public Education” were:

The second panel was not visible remotely. Representatives from Christie’s and EBay presented the efforts of those organizations to combat the sale of illicit antiquities through their organizations.

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel spoke at the conclusion of the event.

The symposium was open to invited guests and registered press. Contact: Natalie Schwich, and

Details of the event advertisment are available here.

Other summaries of the event:

Highlights from “Conflict Antiquities: Forging a Public/Private Response to Save Iraq and Syria’s Endangered Cultural Heritage” at the ARCA Blog, (PDF here).
New Documents Prove ISIS Heavily Involved in Antiquities Trafficking, by Christopher Jones at Gates of Nineveh (PDF here)