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.

Wanborough Late Dr J L Gower inspecting site damage courtesy Marion Gower


The Romano-British temple site at Wanborough in Surrey, England, was largely unknown and unstudied prior to a remarkable turn of events in the 1980s.


Wang Chuzhi Tomb Panel

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

Weary Herakles Photo AP

Weary Herakles

A Roman sculpture: the bottom half was archaeologically excavated at the Turkish site of Perge and the top half was looted and eventually placed on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA.

Colima Dog Owend by Kahlo and Rivera in the Mexicanidad Exhibit traveling to Mexican Consulates

Western Mexican Shaft Tombs

A cultural tradition known for its ceramic figurines, nearly all of which have surfaced as a result of illicit and illegal looting.