CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


"Looted Antiquity The Trade of Ancient Near Eastern Artefacts and its Impact on Research "

Session 16 Commodity and Market

Kunsthistorische   Institut    


The news coverage of the current situation in the Middle East makes it transparent that politics influences the art market and both affect research. In Syria and Iraq cultural heritage sites from different periods have been looted and destroyed. A considerable number of objects are being sold on the international (black) market. Yet how big the market is and in which collections the antiquities end up is unknown. However, what impact the current situation has on research can be gauged with the example of Ancient Near Eastern Studies. Clandestine excavations destroy part of an archaeological site. Even if accessible for research, the antiquities purchased on the art market often lack any archaeological information. Not the trade with artefacts from the Middle East is a recent development, but the public attention since the summer of 2014. Videos and images of acts of destruction caused a global outcry and entered the political discourse. 


Babette Schnitzlein received her PhD in Assyriology in 2015 from the Free University Berlin. Her dissertation was on the scribal culture in first millennium B.C. Mesopotamia. She also did her M.A. studies in ancient Near Eastern archaeology, Assyriology and social and cultural anthropology at the Free University. There she was a member as well of the interdisciplinary research training group “Notational Iconicity: On the Materiality, Perceptibility and Operativity of Writing”. Since 2015 she has been a research associate in the project “Bilderfahrzeuge – Aby Warburg’s Legacy and the Future of Iconology” at the Warburg Institute in London; but she is also affiliated with the Kunsthistorische Institut in Florenz. Her current research focuses on Mesopotamia in 1500 – 100 B.C. Specifically, she is investigating the transfer of images and texts, intellectual history and aesthetics of writing. She is also interested in research practices in Ancient Near Eastern studies, especially concerning the role of images and models.