How “looters” sell artifacts
I have received a message from a knowledgeable and respectable individual who lives in an antiquities “source country,” and who has personally observed how “looters” actually dispose of artifacts. I will not disclose his identity, which could make life very difficult for him if the authorities became aware that he had written this. The relevant part of his message is quoted verbatim below.
I am a Greek Cypriot living in Cyprus and I have also lived in Greece for a number of years too. The looting of antiquities in both of these countries has been an ongoing problem for centuries but it in no way can be compared to countries like Syria, Egypt, Israel etc... What I mean by this is that the looted artifacts (coins, pottery etc.) in both Greece and Cyprus are not predominantly destined for the international market for 2 reasons. Firstly the problem of export arises. People may think it is very easy to illegally smuggle large quantities of antiquities out of these countries but they couldn't be further from the truth.
This doesn't really matter as the second of my reasons negates this course having to be taken. Antiquities don't need to be smuggled out because 90% of them are sold internally. There is a MASSIVE market in both of these countries for all types of artifacts but especially for coins. The looters may not be receiving international market prices but the prices they do receive are still attractive enough to make the risk of smuggling unnecessary.
Now this is not to say that smuggling does not occur but it is by far in the minority. So, at least as far as these two countries are concerned, take away the international market today and tomorrow its still business as usual!
And lets not all kid ourselves that the looting is only done by nationals. I have helped out on various excavations conducted in Cyprus by various universities etc. and you would be surprised at the amount of small artifacts that are pocketed by the students.
This is not done for any financial gain but mainly because (especially in the case of coins) they don't consider them to be 'anything important'. For arguments sake you could call them souvenirs. This first came to light for me when, many years ago, I was dating a student who, when the time arrived for her to go home, pulled out a pocketful of coins and gave me 3 classical coins of ancient Kition. Actually, that was what started me collecting.