Book List: Loot — The Battle Over The Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World

by Lindsay Shapka in

In most of the bookstores I walk into, the art history section is pretty lean. There are a lot of large-scale photo books with the standard stats on famous works of art, but not much that is critical, new or honest.

So, when I came across Loot: The Battle Over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World, on the shelf one afternoon, I snapped it up without even reading the back cover. I figured that anything was better than nothing. Fully prepared for the worst, I started reading it with a steaming coffee in hand, just in case it was too dry to handle un-caffeinated.

Thankfully, my coffee got cold before I could even pause to take a sip. Author Sharon Waxman had me from the first line, 

It was just like Zahi Hawass to toss a bomb into the middle of someone else’s well-laid plans…

For centuries, the Western world has plundered priceless treasures from the ancient world in order to fill their museums and galleries. Now, for the first time, the countries where many of these ancient civilizations originated are fighting back. Countries like Greece, Egypt, Turkey and Italy are taking on powerhouses like the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The British Museum and the J. Paul Getty Museum causing everyone to ask the question; Who does history belong to?

In Loot, Waxman uses historical accounts and candid contemporary interviews to give readers insight into the complicated issues surrounding the antiquities trade. Full of mystery, intrigue and conspiracy, she does a great job of making history accessible and interesting to even those who know very little about the world of cultural plunder.

The result is a great read that is anything but dry… no coffee required.