A "terrorist startup with a clearly defined business model" is how religious historian Karen Armstrong describes Islamic State. The radical Islamist group is the world’s richest terrorist organisation – those who have seen the group’s grotesque propaganda videos may notice fleets of brand-new 4x4s its members drive.

  But where does the money come from? Analysis suggests donations, smuggled oil (up to $1.645m a day), kidnapping (at least $20m last year), people trafficking, extortion, robbery and last – but not least – the sale of antiquities. It’s a lucrative source of income – for example, the sale of looted items from al-Nabuk, west of Damascus, is reported to have earned IS $36m.

  IS operates in the richest archaeological arena in the world, the cradle of civilisation. While ancient sites at Nimrud, Nineveh and Hatra are being destroyed, a stream of artefacts suspected to come from such places has appeared on the black market. IS either uses so-called ‘bulldozer archaeology’ (unearthing sites using any equipment available which is extraordinarily destructive), or employs locals to dig up sites and tombs. The group then takes a tax, approved by Sharia law, based on the value of any treasure taken. No-one knows what has come out of the ground and such loot is impossible to identify later.

  Do not be fooled by the video of IS in Mosul Museum smashing ancient Assyrian statues which it claimed were "worthless idols". IS may have defaced important monuments, which it cannot sell, but evidence suggests it is trading in moveable objects, which it can. In any case, the statues in the museum were plaster copies. "None of the artefacts is an original,” says the head of Iraq's national antiquities department Fawzye al-Mahdi.

  "They were copies of the originals in Baghdad Museum made when Iraq was building regional museums", says Dr Mark Altaweel, of the Institute of Archaeology at University College London. But large-scale looting has been taking place in Mosul for at least 25 years, with Western demand very high, he adds.

  The smaller, the better

  Arthur Brand, of Amsterdam-based Artiaz, one of a growing number of firms which tries to locate stolen art, has dubbed the illicit trade "blood antiques". While antiques are usually less transportable than blood diamonds, they are potentially far more valuable.

  There are numerous reports of antiques from Syria and Iraq circulating in the European black market. Reportedly, Scotland Yard has four investigations in progress related to Syrian antiques – but without much greater financial help, closing down the networks that move the loot around the world seems an impossible task.

  "The looters tap into well-established old networks using smuggling routes that often go through Turkey and Lebanon," says Dr Altaweel.

  Among items in demand are ancient cuneiform tablets, cylinder seals, jars, coins, glass and particularly mosaics, which can be easily broken up and transported. The smaller and easier to conceal and transport an object is, the more valuable it could be.

  Christopher Marinello, a spokesman for London-based Art Recovery Group, which advises buyers on due diligence, says there has been intense speculation about the value of looted art. "There are a lot of figures floating around”, he says. “Theoretically, tainted objects are worth a fraction of their true value but it all depends on practicality. A large object that is not legitimate may be worth only 10-15% of its true value in the black market but smaller, more easily transported pieces can be worth a much greater percentage.”

  Smaller, more easily transported pieces can fetch much more on the black market than large artefacts (Credit: Getty)

  IS is not the first terrorist organisation to use blood antiques for funding. In 1974, the IRA stole old master paintings, including Vermeer's Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid, from a house in County Wicklow. The works were then valued at $12m.

  Smash and grab

  Very few of the thousands of artefacts looted in Syria and Iraq will ever see the light of day. They will disappear into private collections and vaults largely in Europe and America – where there is specific demand for pre-Islamic items – and in Japan and Australia. If items are recovered it usually takes years for investigators to secure convictions.

  Last month, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) displayed some 60 artefacts that had been recovered, including a magnificent head of the Assyrian King Sargon II, valued at $1.2m. Operation Lost Treasure (a name suggestive of a Hollywood film) dates back to 2008 when word came of Dubai-based antiques dealer Hassan Fazeli shipping illegal goods to the US.

  Turkey was listed as the country of origin and documents declared the value of the Sargon II head as $6,500. Other smuggled items included an Egyptian funerary boat valued at $57,000. Some shipments were directly linked to major museums, galleries and art houses in New York. The investigation was unique in bringing money laundering charges which allowed agents to seize bank accounts containing the proceeds.

  However, the items recovered by ICE date back to the Iraq war. Knowing that the war would inflict terrible damage, archaeologists, museum directors and other members of the art world met with Pentagon officials in 2003 to convince them to protect the archeological sites. The initiative failed. Instead, US forces notoriously turned Babylon into what was dubbed 'the Hanging Gardens of Halliburton', building a camp on the precious archaeological site.

  This ancient Sumerian statue is among thousands of ancient looted treasures stolen from the National Museum in Baghdad in 2003 (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

  The Pentagon meeting also failed to prevent the looting of the National Museum in Baghdad. On the contrary, looting was encouraged under the logic that the collections would be safer elsewhere. As Ashton Hawkings of the American Council for Cultural Property said: "the legitimate dispersal of cultural material through the market" was the best way to protect treasures.

  It was effectively an invitation to loot. More than 15,000 objects, including jewellery, ceramics, and sculptures, were stolen from the museum. The most famous pieces stolen were the 5,000-year-old Warka vase (later recovered in 14 pieces) and the Lyre of Ur, the world's most ancient musical instrument, likewise found badly damaged.

  Hundreds have never been found and five centuries of Ottoman records were lost, as well as works by Picasso and Miró, which were destroyed by fire. One estimate of the loss attributable to art theft in Iraq is $10bn.

  The sliced head of a bull stolen from an archaeological site in Nineva, Iraq came the National Museum in Baghdad after it was confiscated from thieves (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

  Looted artefacts pass through many hands before emerging in on the market and may not appear for decades. Lynda Albertson, president of the Association for Research of Crimes against Art, says it is impossible to quantify how much money IS makes on the black market because it may take years for a looted item to appear there. For example, Cambodian antiquities from Angkor Wat turned up at auction 40 years after the end of the civil war.

  Collectors willing to buy art without a clear provenance bear a huge responsibility for the destruction of heritage sites across the world, but it has become a very dangerous game. The well-known Turkish and Beirut smugglers who probably moved the Sargon II head have gone further underground and are extremely suspicious of buyers. Not only could they face exposure and loss, if objects are known to have been obtained from IS, they could even be charged with aiding terrorism – arguably the most powerful deterrent yet.

  参考译文

  宗教历史学家 凯伦·阿姆斯特朗 这样描述伊斯兰国:一个靠商业成长起来的恐怖组织。这个激进的伊斯兰团队是全球最富有的恐怖组织,那些看过这个组织诡异的宣传视频的人可能会注意到它的成员们所驾驶的全新的4X4编队。

  但是他们的钱从哪里来呢?有分析认为资金来源于捐赠,偷运石油(每天可收获164.5万),绑架(去年至少收获2千万),非法交易,敲诈,抢劫,最后还有一个很重要的经济来源——古董交易。这是非常丰厚的经济来源,比如,从大马士革西部al-Nabuk抢来的东西据称是卖到了三千六百万。

  伊斯兰国活动在世界上考古资源最为丰富的地区,这些地区是文明的摇篮。当尼姆伍德,尼尼微和哈特拉的古代遗址都被毁坏的时候,黑市里随即出现了一批文物,人们怀疑这些物品就是来自上述遗址中。伊斯兰国要么使用所谓的“推土考古”(用有巨大破坏力的设备来发掘遗址),要么雇用当地人来挖遗址或陵墓。然后这个组织开始了被伊斯兰教法所认同的征税,税收依宝物的价值来定。没有人知道从地里挖出来的是什么,这些赃物以后也不可能被鉴别出来。

  别被伊斯兰国在摩苏尔博物馆毁坏古代亚述王国雕像的视频所迷惑,认为这些雕塑是没用的神像。伊斯兰国可能已损坏了有重要意义的纪念碑的外观,这些东西太重无法出售。但是有证据显示,他们在售卖易于搬动的物品。但不管怎么说,这些在博物馆的雕像是石灰复制品。“所有这些东西都不是真的,”伊拉克国家文物局的局长说到。

  当伊拉克在建造地区的博物馆时,他们把巴格达博物馆的物品复制了过来“,来自伦敦大学考古系的马克·奥特韦尔博士说。但是在摩苏尔的大规模抢夺已有25年,在欧洲很有市场。

  越小,越好

  越来越多的公司试图寻找被偷走的艺术品,来自阿姆斯特丹的亚瑟·布兰德就是其中一个,他把这场违法的交易称作”血腥古董“。古董相比血钻(非洲钻石交易残忍血腥,所以被称作血钻)来说,不易运输,所以他们更加值钱。

  有大量报道称来自叙利亚和伊拉克的古董在欧洲黑市上流通。据报道,苏格兰法庭有四场正在进行中的调查,都和叙利亚古董藏品有关,但是没有更多的经济支援,想要关闭脏品交易网络是不可能的。

  抢夺者可以轻松地进入发展成熟的交易网络,偷运路线通常是穿过土耳其和黎巴嫩。奥特韦尔博士说。

  这些物品有古代楔形文字板,滚筒印,罐子,钱币,玻璃制品,还有很火的马赛克镶嵌工艺,他们都很容易被损坏,却也很容易运输。越小,越容易隐藏和运输的东西就越值钱。

  来自伦敦的文物追寻小组主张买家多多调查价格,他们的发言人 克里斯托佛·马里内略 说到,市场对于掠夺品的价值有激烈的争辩。”这价格是漂浮不定的“,他说,”理论上来讲,有污点的东西只值它真正价值的一小部分,但这些都要看实际情况。非法的大件物品在黑市上可能只值它真正价值的10-15%,但是更小的,跟容易运输的可以值更多。

  伊斯兰国不是第一个用血腥古董来支撑他们的恐怖组织,在1974年,爱尔兰共和军偷走大师级作品,包括维米尔的油画作品写信的夫人和她的女仆,这件作品的估价为1200万美元。

  毁坏、掠夺

  在叙利亚和伊拉克抢夺的文物中,几乎很少会重见天日。他们会消失,大部分会在欧洲,美洲这些对前伊斯兰时代有特殊癖好的地方成为私人藏品,或储存在地下室中,还有些会流入日本和澳洲。如果藏品被重新找回,调查员会花上好几年的时间才有确定的定罪。

  上个月,美国移民和海关执法局(ICE)重新找到了大约60件文物,包括制作精美的亚述王 萨尔贡二世的头像,估价值120万美元。这使失落的宝藏(让人想起一部好莱坞电影)调查追溯到了2008年,当时有消息称迪拜的文物贸易商 哈桑 运输非法货物前往美国。

  土耳其被列为文物的来源国,文件宣称萨尔贡二世的头像价值6500美元。其他的偷运的文物包括埃及的价值57000美元的葬船。一些货物直接被运送至纽约主要的博物馆,美术馆和艺术工作室。这项调查特殊在它引出了准许代理商从银行账户中获利的这种洗黑钱行为指控。

  然而,这些被ICE重新找到的文物要追溯到伊拉克战争时期。考虑到战争会对文物造成严重的损坏,考古学家,博物馆馆长和藏品界其他人士在2003年与五角大楼的官员会晤,想要说服他们保护这些考古遗址。但谈判工作失败了。美国武装竟无耻地在珍贵的考古遗址上建造了一个营地,并把它称作 哈里伯顿的空中花园。

  五角大楼没能成功阻止巴格达国家博物馆被掠夺,相反的是,他们还鼓励这种行为,认为这些文物在其他地方会更加安全。正如来自美国文化产权理事会的 阿什顿·霍金斯说:“文物在市场的合法流通是保护这些文物的最好方法。”

  这对洗劫敞开了大门,超过15000件东西从博物馆被偷走,其中最出名的是有5000年历史的乌鲁克祭祀瓶(后来被发现时是14块碎片),还有乌尔琴,世界上最古老的乐器,同样,被发现时,损坏严重。

  其余上百件再也没被找到过,还有记载奥斯曼帝国五百年历史的资料丢失了,也有毕加索和米罗的作品被毁于火灾。由这些伊拉克强盗所造成的损失估计达到一百亿。

  这些文物辗转多次后才出现在市场上,可能会花上数十年时间。文物犯罪调查协会的主席 琳达·艾伯森说伊斯兰国在黑市上造成的经济活动难以估量,因为让这些文物重新出现在公众的视野中会花上好几年的时间。比如,柬埔寨吴哥窟的文物在国家内战结束40年之后才出现在拍卖会上。

  买下这些来源不明的文物的收藏家对破坏世界文化遗产都应承担巨大责任,但是这已经成为了一种非常危险的游戏。土耳其和贝鲁特出名的偷运者(可能是他们偷运了萨尔贡二世的头像)行踪已经非常隐秘了,他们对买家也极其不信任。如果这些文物是从伊斯兰国手中拿到的,他们不仅会被揭发和蒙受损失,还会面临支援恐怖主义的指控,这可以说是对文物非法交易的最有力的打击。

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