Trafficking Culture is an international research consortium constituted by an overall theme of interest in understanding the international trade in illicit cultural objects, and attempting to develop and refine an evidence base for promoting effective policy interventions to reduce this global form of trafficking.

Our researchers, based at Glasgow University, Oxford University, and the University of Victoria at Wellington, participate in a number of independent, but thematically-overlapping research projects, supported by the rest of the Trafficking Culture consortium and by other colleagues. Our work is geographically diverse and inherently interdisciplinary.

General Interests:

  • Analysis of antiquities sales and acquisitions data in order to provide size and shape estimates for the international illicit market
  • Development and evaluation of cultural heritage policy
  • Ethnographic research and fieldwork into antiquities looting and trafficking routes, as well as heritage security
  • Comparative  analysis of parallel and related illicit commodities smuggling, including wildlife, fine art, fossils, and drugs
  • Qualitative interview of antiquities trade participants, regulators, and stakeholders 

Current Projects:

Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East & North Africa (EAMENA)

EAMENA’s primary aim is to rapidly record and evaluate the status of the archaeological landscape of the MENA region in order to create an accessible body of data which can be used by national and international heritage professionals to target those sites most in danger and better plan and implement the preservation and protection of this heritage.

Neil Brodie

Understanding the international market in illicit cultural objects

What are the best ways to encourage and support this type of anti-crime response from dealers? What is the role of shady, untrustworthy, or criminal dealers in the ordinary functioning of the market? What does the market consider appropriate, sensitive, but effective regulation to look like? Does criminalisation work as a deterrent in this field?

Simon Mackenzie

Stolen Gods

Sacred art is alive: it is a major component of the identities of living people and communities.The theft, trafficking, and destruction of sacred art is a special subset of the larger study of the movement of illicit art and antiquities. It has its own unique causes and, perhaps, its own unique solutions.

Donna Yates

Culture Crime News

An ever-growing and searchable database of antiquities and art crime articles from the popular press.

Donna Yates

Tracking Illicit Antiquities

Ongoing project to identify antiquities depicted in the photo archives confiscated from dealers of looted antiquities within the records and publications of auction houses, museums, private collections and galleries.

Christos Tsirogiannis

Measuring the international market in illicit cultural objects

How large is the market in terms of material volume and monetary value? Can the incidence or severity of looting and illicit trade be inferred from fluctuations over time in the volume or price of material on the market? Can the effectiveness of policy countermeasures be inferred from fluctuations over time in the volume or price of material on the market?

Neil Brodie

Illicit Traffic in Latin American Antiquities: The dynamics of a criminal market

The primary aim of this project is to develop a better understanding of the criminal networks involved in the trafficking of illicit cultural objects from Latin America, and to do this from a perspective which calls attention to the relationship between the practice of trafficking antiquities and the regulatory structures which attempt to effect crime control.

Donna Yates

From Illicit to Licit: The Laundering of Looted Antiquities into Legitimate Artworks

This research aims to better comprehend this looted-to-legitimate transformation by tracing the journey of antiquities from Cambodia, through the market, to overseas collections.

Tess Davis

Current PhD Student Projects:

The African Past for Sale: Regulatory Effects on the Illicit Market in West African Cultural Objects

This study seeks to understand how international legislation, academic involvement, and museum ethics, acquisition, and display have affected the illicit market in West African cultural objects.

Meg Lambert

Cultural Property in Transit: A Case Study of Hong Kong

This project explores the structure and nature of the trade in cultural property in and out of transit nations, especially free ports. Interviews with various actors involved in the trade in cultural property in and out of Hong Kong, as well as documentary research, will shape a criminological ethnography of one of the most important transit cities in the world.

Emiline C.H. Smith