It is not known how many legal or illegal antiquities importers brought into the U.S. from Iraq last year. What is known is that declared imports of "antiques" classified under HTS 9706 originated from a war zone where cultural heritage is in jeopardy. What commodities were exactly shipped to American ports of entry and why, in fact, did the bulk of declared HTS 9706 commodities originating from Iraq--$3,330,619 worth--get shipped to New York City remains a mystery, at least for now.
Were these imports deliberately misclassified to plausibly conceal illegally dug-up ancient tablets, foundation cones, sculptures, and more? Possibly. Or did a legal trade in vintage trays and antique coffee pots actually spike for some reason because of the conflict? Customs officials should find out for certain, particularly given the identified threat posed to archaeological site looting and museum and storehouse theft as a result of the unrest in Iraq.
Until the fighting subsides, and until customs officials learn more about the unanswered questions swirling around American imports of Iraqi cultural heritage goods, collectors would be well-advised not to buy heritage material from the region, or at least exercise rigorous due diligence when buying, in order to steer clear of acquiring potential ISIS loot.
Photo credit: Sam LeVan
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