In January 2004, The Art Newspaper reported that important archaeological sites at Jiroft in the southwestern Iranian province of Kirman were being systematically looted, following the discovery of a hoard of richly decorated objects (The Art Newspaper, No.143, p.9).
Subsequently, the distinctive artefacts from the site began to appear on the European market with fake provenances. In July, Iran pressed the UK to take action over the sale of these smuggled artefacts. Faced with accusations of its own failure to control the plunder, however, the Iranian government has now taken extreme measures.
At the beginning of October, Hosain Marashi, Head of Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation, announced that two men convicted of smuggling thousands of antiquities from the area had been sentenced to death by hanging. It is the first time in Iran that the death penalty has been imposed on antiquities smugglers.
Less than a week later, on 11 October, the Head of the Jiroft Cultural Heritage Department, Abdolali Hessam Arefi, told the Islamic Republic News Agency that looting was still continuing at Jiroft.
Official excavations have established that Jiroft was an important hub of west Asian trade between the third millennium BC and 2300 BC, with a sophisticated culture comparable to that of Mesopotamia.
The artefacts looted from the original necropolis are frequently engraved with animals and made from a locally quarried green-grey chlorite stone, as well as from copper, bronze and lapis lazuli.