Gleaming in the Dust is a new audio documentary that reveals the extent to which ancient antiquities are being looted in Egypt and sold on international markets in London, Paris and New York. Produced by two young documentary-makers, George Richards and Tristan Summerscale, for Square Bracket Productions, Gleaming in the Dust explores the tragedy of how antiquities have been dug out of the desert in post-revolutionary Egypt, smuggled into the West, and sold illegally by well-known auction-houses and antiquities dealers.
Featuring interviews with leading Egyptologists, the Egyptian government, the British Museum, antiquities dealers and lost-art investigators, Gleaming in the Dust uncovers the murky world into which artistic wonders of mankind’s distant past are being lost forever.
After the tumultuous fall of President Mubarak, the short-lived rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the restoration of military rule, Gleaming in the Dust asks whether a combination of the new Egyptian government, academic institutions, and the legitimate international antiquities trade work together to stop the looting of Egypt’s ancient past.
Since the events in Egypt that inspired Gleaming in the Dust, the crisis of antiquities looting has spread far beyond the confines of Egypt – the cultural heritage of the wider Middle East is under grave threat from looting and destruction. The state of civil war now prevailing in Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq has opened up these countries’ ancient sites to plundering by thieves and by Islamic extremists who believe they have a religious duty to destroy art belonging to any sect or religion other than their own.
In Syria, entire ancient cities have been destroyed with mechanised diggers and all six World Heritage Sites have suffered damage. Satellite imagery shows ancient sites, many hectares in size, peppered with small holes burrowed into the ground by looters. In Iraq, the Islamic State has systematically destroyed ancient temples and shrines belonging to Shi’a Muslims, Christians and a range of other minorities, including the Yezidis. The Islamic State is also selling Iraqi and Syrian antiquities on the black market in order to finance its military campaign.
This is an issue that continues to afflict the Middle East, and Egypt remains one of the worst affected countries. Listen to Gleaming in the Dust at gleaminginthedust.com.