Mesopotamia Relief Foundation

Combatting the Online Antiquities Market

In 2020 we received a grant from the J.M. Kaplan Fund to work on a pilot project employing two Syrian archaeologists to monitor the online black market for antiquities. One of the less understood aspects of the Syrian conflict has been the massive damage done to cultural heritage by the conflict. As the security situation broke down from 2011 onwards, museums were looted, illegal excavations forever damaged undiscovered archaeological sites, and groups like ISIS deliberately destroyed mankind’s heritage.

Our project is focused on mapping and tracking the trafficking of antiquities stolen from Syria online, tying our understanding of the online market to the situation on the ground in northeastern Syria where we work. We hope to build off this work and continue to preserve the cultural heritage of northeastern Syria – Upper Mesopotamia – that is not only the birthplace of civilization but also has an important, and too little known, place in the development of Christianity.

This project will produce original research on the illegal antiquities trade.

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