As we have written about a couple of times in the past, Isis is engaged in the systemic destruction of ancient sites and artefacts in Syria but at the same time, as the warnings from the FBI indicate, they are selling artefacts to fund their activities.
Andrew Keller, a senior official at the State Department revealed declassified documents at the Met proving that Isis is running a business selling artefacts. The documents reveal the structure of the antiquities business and are informed by documents that were seized by US Special Forces.
After some recent changes Isis now manages oil and antiquities under the same bureaucratic umbrella, the “Diwan al-Rikaz,” an archaic phrase that literally translates to “Department of Precious Things That Come Out of the Ground.”
Isis treats most antiquities as a natural resource, ripe for extraction and profit. A chart found in the raid shows that Abu Sayyaf, who recently took responsibility for the Isis antiquities trade, dispatched investigation teams to identify places “that are anticipated to have precious things,” then licensed locals to excavate the sites with shovels or rented backhoes.
Although the cynical might believe that Isis is spouting a doctrine regarding idolatry whilst only destroying objects/sites to big to sell, documents reveal that the group warns of the consequences for anyone caught “dealing in idolatrous antiquities and ephemeral statues” suggesting that they have a defined stance on idolatry.
Keller also said that a handful of receipts discovered on Abu Sayyaf’s hard drive show that, during his six-month tenure, the Syrian branch of the antiquities division collected at least two hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars in taxes—a notable sum, but hardly a drop in the billion dollars that Isis amassed last year, according to State Department estimates.