Donna Yates

Donna in Bolivia

Donna Yates is a Research Fellow in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow.

She was awarded a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (2012–2015) and a Core Fulbright Award (2012–2013) to study the trafficking of Latin American cultural property. The goal of her project is to better understand the relationship between communities, governments, the law, and the operation of transnational criminal markets and to help develop regulatory mechanisms for controlling the illicit antiquities trade in that region.

Using Bolivia as a starting point and now expanding into Central America (particularly Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico), she studies the existing legal and extralegal mechanisms for preventing the looting of archaeological sites. Donna is conducting ethnographic fieldwork to better understand the implementation of regulation and the behaviours, norms, and values of the stakeholder communities that are governed by it. This work will be informed by a parallel comparative study that she will be conducting of other transnational criminal networks operating out of Latin America.

Most recently Donna has been researching the theft, trafficking, and security of Sacred Art. This includes art from Latin American churches and she has been expanding her focus to include temple and shrine sites in South Asia, particularly Nepal and India. Information about sacred art theft can be found on her website

Donna at the Maya site of Lamanai, Belize

Donna completed her PhD in Archaeology at the University of Cambridge in 2012 looking at the legal, social, and professional construction of archaeology and heritage in the rapidly changing social and political climate of modern Bolivia. Her first degree was in Archaeology at Boston University with a focus on Mesoamerica. She went on to complete an MPhil in Archaeological Heritage and Museums at Cambridge. Her MPhil thesis documented the market for illicit South American antiquities at US-based auctions. Donna has conducted archaeological and anthropological fieldwork in Belize, Guatemala, Ecuador and Bolivia.


Donna is the lead researcher on the project ‘Illicit Traffic in Latin American Antiquities: The Dynamics of a Criminal Market