This Encyclopedia constitutes a preliminary source of case studies that reveal aspects of the transnational illicit trade in cultural objects.

Each entry synthesizes information taken from what are considered to be reliable sources, and presents a bibliography of primary publications to facilitate further research. We endeavour to prepare texts that are factually accurate and objective accounts, and the texts are not indicative of an author’s personal opinion.

The Encyclopedia is a work in progress, and new entries will be added (and current entries updated as appropriate) as time permits. The authors endeavour to attribute any images that are used, but we should be contacted by the owners of unattributed images.

Uma Maheshwar Nepal via Patan Museum

Uma Maheshwar from Nepal

A 12th century Hindu sculpture stolen from Nepal in 1982 and returned from a Berlin museum in 2000.


Garland Sarcophagus

Second century Roman piece looted from Turkey and returned in a deal that included a tax write off for the buyer.


Ixkun Stela 5

In 1972 looters heated this Maya monument and doused it in water, causing it to break into easily-transportable fragments.


Las Limas Monument 1

Well-known Olmec greenstone statue stolen from a Mexican museum and abandoned in a Texas hotel room after traffickers were unable to sell it. 


Mosaic Maya Mask

Mosaic stone mask said to have been looted from a Mexican cave and now in the collection of Dumbarton Oaks.


Long Island University Hillwood Museum theft

Egyptian artefacts stolen from Hillwood Museum and sold at Christie’s...


Wang Chuzhi Tomb Panel

Marble relief panel stolen from Chinese tomb in 1994 recovered from Christie’s New York in 2001. 

Lysippan Zeus

Lysippan Zeus

A small bronze statue of Zeus stolen from Rome’s National Museum of Italy in 1980 was sold at Sotheby’s New York on 9 December 2004. 


Tomb of Mutirdis Relief Fragment

Stolen Egyptian tomb relief recovered from Bonhams in 2008.


Marcus Aurelius head

Marble head stolen from Algerian museum recovered from Christie’s New York in 2004.