IMG_0560.jpgThe 2016 June issue of National Geographic features a story about the Antiquities Trade.  It is a reminder of the ancient treasure that may still be found in the common flea markets, yards sales, auctions and estate sales.  It is also a reminder that even reputable auction houses and museums are not immune to the trade in looted artifacts, some even fakes. Often we don’t know we have a treasure and sometimes even the experts can’t tell.

Israel Armenian pottery 048This Mayan mask was found in a yard sale and bought very cheap and then resold on eBay at a profit.  The eBay buyer may have made a profit too if they sold it to a museum or high paying collector.  Who knows?  IMG_0562.jpgI have seen replicas of this replicated ancient oil burning lamp in museums.  This was bought at an estate sale.  Lost treasure can still be found: a scrap dealer in 2014 had bought a rare Faberge Egg that turned out to be one of the missing eight imperial eggs in a midwest flea market.  That sold for millions!  There was a couple out walking their dog one day when the dog dug up a couple of canisters of gold coins that had been buried under a tree.

When treasure is looted there is a part of the human story that is lost in the loss of it’s provenance.  However, some will argue that the object was a rescue from an unstable country, such as during the time of war or the deliberate destruction by the terrorist group ISIS in 2015 during their systematic cultural degradations.

“Collectors, like museums, safeguard the cultural property of humankind, which source countries often fail to protect.”  (NG June 2016)


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