Why We Need to Protect Ancient Treasures From ISIS and their supporters?


The U.S. House passed legislation Monday to make it harder for criminals

to profit from damaging cultural sites

America lacks ruins. We have decay, but that is not the same thing. A ruin is the monument of a once-great civilization that is gone. In America, we have some remnants of the past, such as rock art and evidence of cliff dwellings in the Pacific Southwest. But the traveler to Europe or the Middle or Far East cannot help but be struck by how integral ruins are to the landscapes and the cities. There, the past rears itself up amidst the treated glass and shining steel of the present.



To live in an area of the world once dominated by Rome, for example, is to remember that even the greatest empires are fleeting. Even more, it is to develop a respect for the past that takes some edge off the smugness of the present. When we study the past in America, it tends to be our past—the Civil War, perhaps, or the Revolutionary War. Sometimes we stretch back to remember Native American culture. But children growing up in our major cities are not confronted by Mayan ruins or ancient temples. The medieval or ancient past is not palpable.

For many Americans, therefore, history exists only as a book, or perhaps a TV documentary. In Jerusalem or Amman or Paris or Athens, the past is where you live.

The particular horror of watching ISIS take a hammer to ancient sites is that ruins have clung to life for so long because previous generations have found their endurance eloquent. In an attempt to prevent ISIS from profiting from destroying these sites, the House passed a bill Monday to restrict imports on archaeological material from Syria.


The withered hand of the past reaches out to us, all the more powerful for its diminishment. Walking in the same structure where Socrates or Caesar walked awakens the lessons of mortality and immortality as no classroom lesson ever can. And to know that you also walk in the footsteps of all the pilgrims who followed, those who wished to feel Socrates with their feet, to stand in the same Senate as Mark Anthony, to feel the immensity of Angor Wat.


It’s possible to be parochial not only in space but in time. Some people believe the city or country where they live is the only one that counts. They are blissfully ignorant of other places and ways of life. But it’s equally foolish to think the time when they live is the only one that counts. When you see an ancient ruin, it becomes clear that we inhabit the world with the past as well as the future, and the present is a brief flash in the sustained pulse of time.

Contemplating ancient remains is an age-old human passion. We are drawn to that which reminds us of our own passage through time, as Rose Macaulay writes in the conclusion of her book A Pleasure in Ruins.

All these castles in ruin, and a thousand more, offer no security: They are shattered, shot-ridden. They crumble before our eyes. There is no security, which is what we always knew. That is the knowledge that opens the door to cherish what we have, and appreciate what we have lost. We know it better when we see what once was great and now is fallen.

Posted by Ainhoa Aristizabal — Unruly Hearts editor

Sold to Antique Dealers by the ISIS: Ancient Syrian Treasures Shipped to US

Sold to Antique Dealers by the ISIS: Ancient Syrian Treasures Shipped to US

$26 Million

Since the start of Syria’s war in 2011, $26 million worth of antiquities have been exported to the United States from the war-torn country, according to Live Science.

The news website gathered its information from US Census Bureau documents, which listed many unidentified and undated items, marked only as ”over 100 years old.”

The documents did not reveal, however, whether the items were imported illegally or whether profits were being made from their resale.

The bulk of the antiques in the Census Bureau documents had arrived in New York, a hub for collectors and dealers.

With such huge demand for Syrian historical artefacts, antiques have now overtaken oil as the country’s largest export to the US.

It is this demand, however, that is fuelling the looting and destruction of many of the Middle East’s historical sites, which have become a fast-money option for many who are desperate to make a living.

Ancient historical sites in Egypt, Iraq and Syria have been targeted by robbers since the upheaval brought about by the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. The Census Bureau data also showed that more than $12 million-worth of Iraqi antiques had been shipped to the US since that same year.

Concerns are mounting over whether the sale of these items is funding militant activity in the Middle East.

On Wednesday, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations expressed his concern about the “100,000 cultural objects of global importance” and the “4,500 archaeological sites” currently under the control of the Islamic State group.

“The profit derived by the Islamists from the illicit trade in antiquities and archaeological treasures is estimated at $150-200 million per year,” Vitaly Churkin wrote in a letter to the UN’s Security Council.

The Russian envoy also described how historical objects were dealt with by the IS group’s “antiquities division”, which is understood to deal with the items like natural resources – to be exploited and sold.

Ambassador Churkin’s letter also implied Turkish cuplability in the proliferation of the illegal trade.

“The main centre for the smuggling of cultural heritage items is the Turkish city of Gaziantep, where the stolen goods are sold at illegal auctions and then through a network of antique shops and at the local market,” Churkin wrote.

On Thursday, Turkey issued a statement saying that it was looking into the Russian claims.

“Even though the claims in the Russian media and recently brought to the UN by the Russian authorities have been made for political purposes and as propaganda, they are being seriously investigated,” a Turkish foreign ministry official said.

“Turkey will make every effort it can to protect cultural assets, which are the common heritage of humanity, and ensure they are safely passed on to future generations.”