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- Under the Hammer: Trafficking,Trading, and Salvaging the Middle Eastern and North African Written Heritage(2023-11-02)
;Palombo, CeciliaSchmidtke, SabineThe trade in written artifacts of Middle Eastern and North African origin is flourishing and its dimensions are growing particularly in areas experiencing militaryconflict and/or extreme poverty. Yemen is one such area: given the ongoing war, manuscripts are being clandestinely taken out of the country. Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya are similarly affected. Islamic, Christian, and Jewish manuscripts originating in the MENASA region are regularly offered for sale by Western auction houses, and many thus end up in private hands. The provenance ofthe objects sold often remains obscure or is at least not mentioned in the relevant sales catalogs. Additionally, artifacts of Middle Eastern origin are increasingly being offered and sold through social media, for the most part clandestinely. Such transactions not only are frequently illegal but also deprive the people living in conflict-ridden regions of their cultural heritage. Moreover, experts have made the case that the illegal trafficking of artifacts may be related to a variety of criminal activities that affect war-zones or regions experiencing instability due to armed conflict. Finally, scholarship, too, is impacted, since artifacts that are purchased by private collectors generally become inaccessible to scholars. While recent military conflicts and the pandemic appear to have exacerbated the situation, there are also many initiatives and actors who are involved in protecting and salvaging MENA’s cultural heritage on the ground. Our panel showcases the fate of individual manuscripts or written artifacts, and entire collections of such materials, that have been auctioned or otherwise sold during recent decades. The contributions address both problems and concrete initiatives aimed at preventing the phenomenon, creating awareness of the artifacts' cultural value among policy makers, customs and police authorities, and auctioneers, and at providing appropriate training to stop illegal trafficking. Moreover, we consider the question of survival and accessibility of written artifacts from the MENASA region, which is connected to the thorny issue ofthe possible restitution of written artifacts. Participants: Luise Loges (University of Glasgow), Josh Mugler (HMML), Cecilia Palombo (Chicago University), Nasser O. Rabbat (MIT), Valentina Sagaria Rossi (University of Rome Tor Vergata), Sabine Schmidtke (IAS) 67 46