This Encyclopedia constitutes a preliminary source of information on various aspects of the transnational trade in cultural objects. It comprises an inter-linked collection of short entries, grouped together and organized according to the headings Case Studies, Theory & Method and Terminology. They are further sorted by Place and by Subject.

Each entry synthesizes information taken from what are considered to be reliable sources, and presents a bibliography of primary publications to facilitate further and more in-depth research. The authors endeavour to prepare texts that are factually accurate and objective accounts, and the texts are not therefore 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. It is intended primarily as a resource for academic research into the trade, but has also been assembled with provenance research in mind, and should appeal to a broader constituency of interested readers. The authors endeavour to attribute any images that are used, but we should be contacted by the owners of unattributed images.


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.

saqqara-duck vessel

Saqqara Royal Duck Vessels

Two stolen alabaster duck vessels returned to Egypt in 2008, one from Christie’s...

Grolier Codex from Ruvalcaba 2008

Grolier Codex

A Maya codex of questionable authenticity that appeared on the market in 1971.

Aden Museum_NAM 42=AM 729

Dat-Hamin Stele

Stolen South Arabian stela returned to Yemen by Phoenix Ancient Art in 2004...

Dou Figurines

Empress Dou Figurines

Figurines stolen from Tomb of Empress Dou returned to China by Sotheby’s in 2003.

Bijbels Museum Egyptian items

Bijbels Museum theft

Egyptian artefacts stolen from the Bijbels Museum in Amsterdam and returned by Christie’s New York...

Nimrud Earrings

Nimrud Earrings

In 2010 Christie’s New York returned a pair of Neo-Assyrian gold earrings to Iraq.

Patterson Soth 2

Maya antiquities sold at Sotheby’s in 1995

Two pre-Columbian antiquities offered for sale by Sotheby’s New York in 1994, were later found in photographs taken by an admitted artifact looter and smuggler.

Vibia Sabina

Vibia Sabina Statue

A 2nd century Roman statue looted from Italy, acquired by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1979, and returned to Italy in 2006.