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Tomb Raiders & Terrorist Financing: The Islamic State's Illicit Traffic in 'Blood Antiquities'

Date: Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Time: 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Contact: Dr. Connie Rodriguez · rodrigue@loyno.edu · 504.865.2287

Location: Whitney Bank Presentation Room, Thomas Hall

A Lecture by

Tess Davis

Executive Director

Antiquities Coalition

free admission and free parking on campus (West Road Garage and the Horseshoe)

Co-sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Department of Classical Studies and the New Orleans Society of the Archaeological Institute of America

With the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the world rightfully asked how a militant faction too extreme for Al-Qaeda transformed itself into “the world’s richest terror group ever.” ISIS boasts an annual budget worth $2 billion and a war chest of $250 million, which if true surpasses the Taliban’s (and that of many states). Still more troubling, it is now financially self sufficient, and no longer dependent on foreign donors. 

How? Like organized criminal enterprises before it: extortion, ransom, robbery, and smuggling. It perhaps comes as no shock that it has been trafficking arms, drugs, and even oil. However, the public reacted with surprise to reports in June 2014 that ISIS jihadists had earned “millions” by looting the region’s archaeological sites, and then selling its ancient treasures to the highest bidder. 

It shouldn’t have. Archaeologists, criminologists, law enforcement agents, and military officials have long warned that the illicit antiquities trade is funding crime and conflict around the world. However, under ISIS’ black flag, this looting and trafficking has become not just a side enterprise, but a massive illegal industry. 

In recent years, we have lost some of the Cradle of Civilization's most iconic masterpieces and sites, many of which had survived for millennia. This wanton destruction is erasing our shared history chapter by chapter. And it threatens us all: at this moment, ISIS is converting these "blood antiquities" into weapons and troops, which are seizing cities, slaughtering soldiers, and beheading civilians. 

 

Tess Davis, a lawyer who has dedicated more than a decade to combatting the illicit antiquities trade, will examine this growing threat to our national security and the world's cultural heritage. In doing so, she will trace the past of looted masterpieces from conflict zones to the very height of the global market, and explore how United States and international law is seeking to cut off this key means of criminal financing. Finally, she will discuss recent progress in this fight, as an unprecedented coalition of countries have joined forces to demand action from both governments and the art market.

Departments

  • Classical Studies