ISIS tried to sell me a mosaic looted from a Syrian Museum

The offer

In January 2016 a guy offered to sell me a mosaic from Turkey. His offer came  through Facebook direct messenger. The mosaic – supposedly excavated from the area of Hatay Antakya (Ancient Antioch) – had been discarded by the archaeologists. The offer came with several pictures.

 

Offer to sell a mosaic from Turkey

Message received from Turkey

When I saw how beautiful the mosaic was I could not believe anybody with common sense could have discarded it !

 

The mosaic offered through direct message

The mosaic offered from Turkey

I quickly suspected this piece had been stolen.

I tried to engage the man trying to sell this piece, asking him details about it.
He answered to me in Italian and suggested I get in touch with him though a WhatsApp telephone number.

 

screenshot of the offer of a looted mosaic

Investigation

In the meantime a search for “Roman Mosaic of Syria” brought up the description of the actual mosaic in the book “Mosaics of the Greek and Roman World” by Katherine M.D.Dunbabin.

The figure of the Sea Goddess occurs frequently on mosaics of the region of Antioch, but never with the power shown here: almost to large for the frame, the figure dominates the small room where it is set. The characteristics of the «Constantinian renascence» are apparent in the broad smooth surfaces and the careful delineation, for instance of the wide opened eyes; but the combination of the massive force of the face and the restlessness of the dark hair makes this work of exceptional quality. Around it, a wide border shows Erotes in boats and fishing, on a sea marked by broad bands of colour.

 

a picture of the looted mosaic in a book about Roman mosaics

Thetys mosaic from Shahba Museum

Without any doubt, the mosaic he was offering me had been looted from the museum.
From there I was able to find professional pictures of the mosaic and confirmed the piece had actually been looted from the museum.

 

The Thetys looted mosaic surrounded by its original border

the original Thetys mosaic looted from the Shahba museum

 

detail of the looted mosaic

detail of the looted mosaic

 

CBS News’ article Following the trail of Syria’s looted history describes how artifacts looted by ISIS or under the authority of ISIS regularly end up on the antiquities markets in London, Paris or even New York.

I went to the FBI website to report this looted mosaic and have not heard anything about it.

 

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