During the looting of the Kerch Museum babies traded with ancient coins

During the looting of the Kerch Museum babies traded with ancient coins by Cameron Hayes, 2002-3, oil on linen, 65 x 100 inches.

Time does not beget wisdom. During the Crimean War the Kerch Museum housed one of the world’s best collections of ancient artefacts. The soldiers of the Russian, Turkish, English and French armies did not wait until the battle was over to loot and destroy the contents of the museum. The battlefield became littered with stolen and abandoned priceless ancient vases, statue rubble, marble arms and legs, historic maps, public records and fragile shields and delicate spears.

The average age of a general in the Crimean war was 77. It was the last war in which inexperienced old Englishmen without military talent or intelligence could buy control of an army of young men. Generals directed a battle from a safe distance and insisted on living a civilised lifestyle despite being on a battlefield. They drank and washed from the top of every stream whereas the young soldiers got Cholera and Typhoid from drinking water from the bottom of the stream. The young men were forever soiling their pants and coughing up phlegm. They became deaf from the close range of the canons, and crippled by the activity of battle, appalling sleeping conditions and worst medical services than the older generals.

The old men were relaxed and invigorated by battle, comforted with the knowledge that in war how old you are is measured not by how far you are from birth but by how close you are to death. So in this environment all the young soldiers were in fact much older than they.

During the looting of the Kerch Museum babies traded with ancient coins, and many of the local children have loaded themselves with looted Hellenistic Period coins. They are finding that despite their wealth they are being ignored at the antique auctions, turned away from the all-you-can-eats and the slot machines merely fire back their coins quite hard and at shin level height. Most tragically their money will not buy them the medical attention, which is reserved only for the old generals.

Some old generals have tied strings of babies around the vegetable gardens to protect them from bombs and erected baby scarecrows. Other generals have tied babies to the front of their horses like fluffy dice. A bomb has landed and exploded in the local fortune teller’s shop, sending thousands of fortunes flying into the air. They are chased by giddy old men through the battlefield and across minefields, while a palm reader has set up shop to service distraught wives who collect blown-off hands and arms in search of information about their husbands.

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