Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Looting at Pompeii - just a tiny tip of a vast iceberg

David Gill, Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk, has noted "reports in the Italian news media that a fresco of Apollo and Artemis has been damaged and [the section depicting] Artemis removed from ... the House of Neptune ... at Pompeii".

Hopefully, this fragment stolen from such a famous and well-documented site will soon be recovered but the incident is a stark reminder of the brazen looting that occurs on archaeological sites throughout the world on a daily basis. Since many of those sites are far less famous or unknown - and the fragments stolen long before the sites had a chance to be documented - the likelihood of the recovery of those fragments is next to nil and we have all been denied a rare opportunity to analyse the contextual evidence of history.

It is of course a vicious circle: the more buyers are happy to purchase artefacts without a properly recorded provenance, the more looters are encouraged to steal and the damage will continue unabated. The looting at Pompeii is merely a tiny, starkly visible tip of a vast, largely invisible iceberg.

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