Case Studies

A figurine from the Cara Sucia region that is in the National Museum of El Salvador

Cara Sucia

Cara Sucia is a Salvadoran archaeological site which experienced several major episodes of looting. These inspired the United States to enter into both its first UNESCO Convention-based emergency import restrictions and its first UNESCO Convention-based cultural property bilateral agreement.

Sevso treasure return to Hungary

Hungarian claim on the Sevso Treasure

The strongest claim to ownership of the collection of Late Roman silver known as the Sevso Treasure has been maintained by Hungary.

Motunui panels

Motunui Panels

Five elaborately carved panels that were smuggled, sold, (almost) used to pay a kidnapping ransom, subject to a landmark court case, and were returned to New Zealand in 2014.

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Placeres Stucco Temple Facade

A large Maya temple decoration that was located in 1968, a rare example of photographic documentation of the looting process.

Aidonia 4 Anemon

Aidonia Treasure

The Aidonia Treasure is a collection of Mycenaean gold and jewelry returned to Greece in 1996 and thought to have been robbed from a cemetery at Aidonia in the late 1970s.

Yajaw Te' K'inich ruler of Mutul de San Jose on a vase from the November Collection, MFA 1988.1177

November Collection of Maya Pottery

A spectacular collection of Classic Maya pottery thought to have been systematically looted from Guatemalan sites throughout the 1980s now in the possession of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Ubina coin from Postimees.ee news article

Ubina Hoard

Discovery of Viking-age silver, looted from a site in northern Estonia, in a German auction house, and their subsequent return, led to the first ever instance of a successful prosecution against looting and trafficking of cultural objects in Estonia.

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Hoi An Shipwreck

In 1997, following the arrest in Vietnam of two Japanese dealers attempting to illegally export antique ceramics, a license was granted by the Vietnamese government to a commercial salvage company to excavate the Hoi An (Cu Lao Cham) shipwreck. The subsequent auction of finds from the wreck was largely unsuccessful.

port royal

Port Royal

Once a strategically significant port and fort located close to Kingston in Jamaica, Port Royal was largely submerged following an earthquake, which left its underwater remains vulnerable to treasure hunting and commercial salvage.

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La Mina

A Moche funerary site in Northern Peru that was looted for spectacular gold objects during the same looting wave that hit following the discovery of the famous lord of Sipán tomb.