Like in the case of antiques plundered from Iraq after the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime, experts predict that lost Syrian treasures are bound to turn up in shops in Jerusalem’s Old City and elsewhere around the country.The situation is grim, but so far the Israel Antiquities Authority seems to be on top of it:
Judging by what happened in Iraq, which also suffered large-scale antiquities theft after Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled in 2003, there’s usually a lag time of several years between the theft and when the artifact hits the market, Klein noted.The story of the raid on the shop in the Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem was noted here. Background on Palmyra is here (cf. here and here) with many, many links. Background on Dura Europos is here and many links.
About six months ago, Interpol and UNESCO announced a worldwide operation to seize antiquities looted from Iraq. Israel participated in this effort, and IAA inspectors searched antiquities shops in Jerusalem’s Old City and elsewhere.
Hundreds of items were seized in these searches, including clay tablets with cuneiform writing, figurines and incantation bowls (inscribed with curses or oaths that were used in certain rituals). The courts recently approved their confiscation by the state, and Klein said the goal is eventually to return them to the Iraqi government via an international agency.
Until recently, Israel was a major center for international trade in illegal antiquities, due to the comparative leniency of its law regulating the purchase and sale of antiquities. But recently, it enacted tougher regulations, which the IAA hopes will make it much harder to deal in looted antiquities here.