Asia Week Raids Cast a Spotlight on Antiquities Trafficking in India

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India_Relief

Art auctions can be a source of nail-biting excitement with high prices breaking the record books. Yet, during the 2016 Asia Week in New York City, the headlines were dominated not by shockingly high sales, but by federal seizures of illegally trafficked Asian antiquities worth a combined estimate of $4 million. The seized artifacts were recovered as part of the … Read More

Heritage At Risk: A Tool for Understanding the Real Threat to Syria’s Cultural Heritage

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SYRIA heritage at risk

Background: Five years of civil war in Syria has taken a serious toll on the country. More than 250,000 people have died as a result of the conflict according to the UN, and millions have fled the county in search of better lives abroad. Once thriving cities are now decimated, and Syria’s rich cultural history is under constant threat. Since … Read More

Cultural Property Laws: Why They Fail and How They Can Be Improved

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Workers unload 2nd c .AD Roman sarcophagus

The destruction and looting of cultural heritage sites and antiquities is a pervasive problem in Iraq and, more recently, Syria, as both areas are plagued by wider political conflicts. Despite international cultural property legislation established to prohibit the destruction or theft of cultural heritage (including the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed … Read More

The Power of One, and Community in Protecting Cultural Heritage

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Three figurines from Anatolia, Badisches Landesmuseum, Karlsruhe, Germany

The looting of archaeological artifacts is an issue that affects us all, across the globe, with ramifications which go beyond an academic, institutional need for understanding our cultural heritage. They touch upon issues of local identity, community, and historical reconstruction, both for understanding the past, but also for considering our future. Likewise, the protection of cultural heritage, not only in … Read More

In Memoriam: Ashrawy and Mustafa Ali

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Egyptian Guards

On February 19, a gang of armed men entered the archaeological site of Dayr al-Barsha with an objective to loot antiquities. The site is well known for its rock-cut tombs dating back to the Middle Kingdom (2040 BC – 1600 BC), many of which were excavated in the early 20th century. The perpetrators were foiled in their attempt to enter … Read More

Market Impact: Increasing Consumer Demand for Legal Provenance

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ceramic antiquities

The illegal antiquities market is extremely difficult to quantify. The nature of the smuggling networks and a code of silence between buyers and sellers make it next to impossible to confirm solid numbers for analysis. One of the few places for which hard data is available is the antiquities auction market. In 2015, researchers from the University of Chicago analyzed … Read More

Argentina and Spain Return Thousands of Artifacts to Peru and Ecuador

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Moche Earrings

Over 4,000 cultural heritage items have been returned to Peru this week after having been seized from traffickers and art collectors almost 16 years ago, in Buenos Aires. The artifacts include pre-Columbian items, metals, textiles, wood, ceramics and bone, and constitute the largest amount of cultural artifacts to be returned to date. Argentina and Spain are also returning over 500 artifacts to Ecuador, adding to … Read More

Illegally Looted Roman and Etruscan Antiquities Found in Geneva

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Pompeii House

Italy’s Carabinieri art crime investigation unit recently discovered forty-five crates containing Etruscan and Roman antiquities in Geneva, Switzerland. Experts speculate that these pieces were left in Switzerland for fifteen years by Robin Symes, a dealer who has served time for contempt of court. When artifacts are improperly removed from their source, cultural and historical context is lost. Pompeii, an archaeological site famous … Read More

Abbasid Wooden Beams Recovered from London Auction House

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Abbasid Caliphs Egypt

Eight wooden beams stolen from the Dome of the Abbasid Caliphs are now in the process of being repatriated to Egypt. The Dome of the Abbasid Caliphs dates to the 7th and 8th centuries. The well-preserved mausoleum is located near the famed Al-Sayeda Nafissa shrine in downtown Cairo. The beams, inscribed with verses from the Quran, had been illegally trafficked to … Read More

Chinese Historical Tomb Site Raided by Gang

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Neolithic Ritual Object Zhulong

A Chinese tomb raider and gang were recently jailed for looting antiquities. This incident was the largest destruction since 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was established by Mao Zedong. The head gang leader became an expert at locating ancient tombs by studying the landscape and using knowledge of astronomy, mountain shapes, and maps. He and four other members … Read More