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

Four Years Later and Still Going Strong

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Euphronios Krater

Just four years after its founding in 2012, Trafficking Culture is well-known as one of the foremost research initiatives for the study of the illicit trade of antiquities. Established with the support of a four-year grant from the European Research Council (ERC), Neil Brodie (SAFE’s 2008 Beacon Award Winner), Simon Mackenzie, Donna Yates, and Christos Tsirogiannis worked together from their … Read More

Stricter Antiquites Laws Anticipated in Pakistan

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Pakistan is in the process of strengthening their cultural heritage protection laws. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Antiquities Bill 2015 has received provincial cabinet approval, and is now waiting on final provincial assembly approval. The bill greatly increases the imprisonment times and fines for damaging, smuggling, and counterfeiting antiquities. It would also create a cultural heritage conservation board “responsible to control illegal … Read More

ISIS’ Cultural Heritage Destruction Largest Since WWII

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Iraq Nimrud - Assyria Lamassu's Guarding Palace Entrance

ISIS –  also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, and Daesh – has looted up to $300 million worth of antiquities in the Middle East. The group targets museums and cultural sites for artifacts to sell on the black market. This provides a significant source of funding for the terrorist organization. The problem lies herewithin recovering the stolen, and sometimes … 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

2015: A Year of Art Crime

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Throughout 2015, art crime found it way to the headlines. These crimes took on many forms and shocked the world in their motivation and execution. With advancing technology, criminals have improved techniques in forgery and stealing art hoping to profit from their fakes and black market sales. The world saw ISIS’s destruction and “industrial-scale” looting of cultural heritage in Palmyra and … Read More

ICOM Publishes ‘Red List’ of Endangered Libyan Antiquities

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ICOM (the International Council of Museums) has released a “red list” of endangered Libyan antiquities. Rather than a list of objects which have already been looted, the Emergency Red List of Libyan Cultural Objects at Risk is a proactive resource, compiling images and descriptions of artifacts known to be vulnerable in order to alert customs officials, police forces and the … Read More

Former Antiquities Dealer Charged with Smuggling

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Ban Chiang pottery

Yesterday, a former antiquities dealer, Jonathan Markell, was sentenced to eighteen months in prison followed by a year of supervised release. Markell was charged with providing false declarations in customs documents in order to bring stolen archaeological material into the United States. This was not the first time that Markell and his wife, Cari, had been involved in trafficking activities; … Read More