Looting and Illicit Trafficking

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Looting and Illicit Trafficking

Articles and information relating to looting and illicit trafficking.


The Working Group of Countering Trafficking of Cultural Materials has become aware of cases where academics, scholars, museum, library and archive professionals, and other material cultural heritage subject matter experts (“SMEs”) have been discussing materials which are under investigation or possible investigation or their possible legal status, whether in an academic publication, any form of social media, a blog, a news story, or semi-popular publication. Doing so may disrupt the investigation and may pass on information that may be used by those involved in the trafficking or current handling of these materials to their advantage, and we urge those considering doing so to read the Guidance Note in the documents.


We have chosen to only include open access articles and papers here on general themes, rather than articles on focused topics, although there is a large body of research literature on this topic. These papers provide some of the most recent think tank work to complement our law library section on looting and illicit trafficking of antiquities.

Inclusion does not indicate endorsement by the Blue Shield of the views and opinions in them.

You can download this list below.

  • Paul, K. A. and A. Al-Azm. 2018. How Facebook Made It Easier Than Ever to Traffic Middle Eastern Antiquities. World Politics Review, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. Available on World Politics Review.
  • Paul, K.A. 2018. Ancient Artifacts vs. Digital Artifacts: New Tools for Unmasking the Sale of Illicit Antiquities on the Dark Web. Arts 2018, 7, 12. (Special Issue Advances in Art Crime Research (2018)). Available on Arts website.
  • Terrill, Andrew. 2017. Antiquities Destruction and Illicit Sales as Sources of ISIS Funding and Propaganda. Strategic Studies Group, US War College: LeTort Papers.
  • Desmarais, France. (ed.) Countering Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods: The Global Challenge of Protecting the World’s Heritage. [Online]: ICOM. Available at the ICOM Illicit Antiquities Observatory.
  • Neil Brodie & Isber Sabrine (2018) The Illegal Excavation and Trade of Syrian Cultural Objects: A View from the Ground, Journal of Field Archaeology, 43:1, 74-84, DOI: 10.1080/00934690.2017.1410919
  • Brodie, Neil / Antiquities Coalition. 2017. How to Control the Internet Market in Antiquities? The Need for Regulation and Monitoring. Policy Brief No. 3, July 2017. Antiquities Coalition website.
  • Committee for Cultural Policy. 2017. Bearing False Witness: The Media, ISIS and Antiquities. 1 December 2017, Committee for Cultural Policy Special Report. Available on their website.
  • Rothfield, Lawrence / Antiquities Coalition. 2016. How Can We Fund the Fight Against Antiquities Looting and Trafficking? A “Pollution” Tax on the Antiquities Trade. Policy Brief No. 2, December 2016. Antiquities Coalition website.
  • St. Hilaire, Ricardo A. / Antiquities Coalition. 2016. How to End Impunity for Antiquities Traffickers: Assemble a Cultural Heritage Crimes Prosecution Team. Policy Brief No. 1, November 2016. Antiquities Coalition website.
  • Antiques Coalition. 2016. #CultureUnderThreat: Recommendations for the U.S. Government. Task Force Report. Antiquities Coalition website.
    (Although US focused, many of the recommendations have broader applicability)
  • Fanusie, Yaya J. Joffe, Alexander, and Defense for Democracies. 2015. Monumental Fight – Countering the Islamic State’s Antiquities Trafficking. Centre on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, Defense for Democracies, November 2015. Defense for Democracies website.
  • Hardy, S. A. 2015. "Is looting-to-order “just a myth”? Open-source analysis of theft-to-order of cultural property." Cogent Social Sciences 1(1): 1087110. DOI: 10.1080/23311886.2015.1087110. Available online.

A number of articles about looting are available on the Trafficking Culture website.

Visit the Red List database on ICOM's website .

Visit Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property on UNESCO's website. This website covers:

  • Legal and Practical Measures Against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property, UNESCO Handbook, 2006
  • The Fight Against the Illicit of Cultural Objects and the 1970 Conventions: Past and Future; Information Kit (PDF)
  • Rules of Procedure for Mediation and Conciliation
  • Model Provisions on State Ownership of Undiscovered Cultural Objects
  • Traffic on the Internet
  • The inventory of cultural properties - Object ID Standard
  • Export certificate - Model Export Certificate for Cultural Objects (UNESCO-WCO)
  • Code of Ethics
    • UNESCO International Code of Ethics for Dealers in Cultural Property (UNESCO)
    • ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums (ICOM)
  • Objects in danger

Attached Files

Guidance for Subject Matter Experts_OCT 2023.pdfDownload
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