Cylinder Seal Sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s (1985–2013)

Brodie, N. and Manivet, P. (2017), “Cylinder Seal Sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s (1985–2013)”, Journal of Art Crime: 3–16.

In 2003, the major auction houses ended sales of unprovenanced cylinder seals and cuneiform tablets, a move that at the time was interpreted as being in response to public anger over the looting of Iraqi museums and archaeological sites, and the associated restrictions placed on trade by UNSCR 1483. Ten years on from those events, these original conclusions do not appear so secure, though they cannot be discounted. This article will look at five analyses to examine those conclusions, and demonstrate that there is a relationship between auction sales and their wider material and commercial contexts, but it is not a straightforward one.