Talks and Presentations

Oya Topcuoglu – “Protecting the World’s Cultural Heritage: Identifying and Protecting Looted Artifacts” – Annual Meeting of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, Chicago, May 30, 2016. [link to…]

James Marrone – “Modeling Market Values from Looted Syrian Artifacts: Preliminary Findings from the MANTIS Project” – Antiquities as Global Contraband: What Do We Know and What Can We Do?, Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, University of Chicago, May 3, 2017. [link to…]

Fiona Rose-Greenland, Oya Topcuoglu and Tasha Vorderstrasse – “MANTIS: Modeling the Antiquities Trade in Iraq and Syria” – Oriental Institute Brown Bag Series, University of Chicago, June 1, 2016.

Fiona Rose-Greenland and James Marrone – “A New Method for Evaluating the Market Value of Cultural Artifacts from the Islamic State” – Money, Markets, and Governance Workshop, University of Chicago, May 17, 2016.

Fiona Rose-Greenland and Oya Topcuoglu – “Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology in Crisis: A New Approach to Evaluating the Trade in Antiquities from Iraq and Syria” – Smart Lectures by the Department of Art History, University of Chicago, April 21, 2016.


Topcuoglu, Oya and Tasha Voderstrasse (forthcoming in 2018). “Small Finds, Big Values: A Study of Cylinder Seals and Coins from Syria and Iraq on the Antiquities Market,” International Journal of Cultural Property Special Issue: New Insights into the Antiquities Market (eds. F.R.Greenland and Larry Rothfield).

Rose-Greenland, Fiona (forthcoming in 2018). “Introduction,” International Journal of Cultural Property Special Issue: New Insights into the Antiquities Market (eds. F.R.Greenland and Larry Rothfield).

Rose-Greenland, F.; J. V. Marrone; O. Topcuoglu, T. Vorderstrasse, “Evaluating the Market Value of Cultural Artifacts from Looted Archaeological Sites” (for submission to Sciences Advances)

Marrone, James V. (forthcoming). “Quantifying the Supply Chain for Near Eastern Antiquities in Times of War and Conflict,” Journal of Cultural Heritage Special Issue: Cultural Heritage in Times of Armed Conflicts in the Middle East: Much More Than Material Damage?.

Research Briefs

Palmyra Reliefs on Auction in Raqqa

If ISIS agents are selling antiquities at the price quoted in a recent news segment, they are doing so at nearly double the price that similar pieces have sold for in legitimate auctions, public data show.

An NBC News segment on April 6 included photos that were said to be never-before-published images of Palmyrene sculpture reliefs sold at a public auction in Raqqa, the ISIS seat of power in Syria. The starting price for these items, NBC News reported, was $150,000[1].

The items in the photo published by NBC News appear to be Palmyrene funerary reliefs, which commonly appear in legitimate auctions. More than three dozen items listed as Palmyrene reliefs have been sold on the open market between 2000 and 2015, based on an analysis of publicly available auction-house data. The highest sale price for such an artifact, from 2008, was roughly $87,000 after adjusting for inflation (see figure below).

This analysis is far from complete, and these items vary considerably in size and condition. Market conditions themselves may also have changed. However, a first-cut analysis shows that a buyer on the market for such antiquities could find them at a reputable auction house, for a considerably lower price than what has been reported, without the all-cash stipulation that is allegedly a part of ISIS auctions. And that’s without considering the risk, time, and additional expense that would go along with traveling into a conflict zone --- or getting oneself, or the item, back out again. This is one of several questions that we need to think about in order to create better knowledge about the scope and value of the trade.

   Palmyra Statuary Prices