Encyclopedia

This Encyclopedia constitutes a preliminary source of case studies that reveal aspects of the transnational illicit trade in cultural objects.

Each entry synthesizes information taken from what are considered to be reliable sources, and presents a bibliography of primary publications to facilitate further research. We endeavour to prepare texts that are factually accurate and objective accounts, and the texts are not 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. The authors endeavour to attribute any images that are used, but we should be contacted by the owners of unattributed images.

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Maithuna from Atru

Two 9th/10th century reliefs stolen from a temple in Rajasthan in 2009 and returned from the United States in early 2014.

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Machaquilá Stela 2

Maya sculpture looted from Guatemala and smuggled into the U.S. resulting in a ground-breaking court decision.

Stela Adad-nerari III

Stele of Adad-nerari III

Syrian stele offered for sale in Christie’s and Bonhams...

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Paracas Mantle returned from National Gallery of Australia

Stolen from Peru’s national museum, the textile was purchased by Australia’s national museum and was returned in 1989 after several years of Peruvian demands.

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Peruvian Antiquities Seized at Dulles Airport (1981)

Dealer pleaded guilty to falsely declaring the value of freshly-looted Peruvian antiquities that he attempted to bring into the US...

Uma Maheshwar Nepal via Patan Museum

Uma Maheshwar from Nepal

A 12th century Hindu sculpture stolen from Nepal in 1982 and returned from a Berlin museum in 2000.

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Garland Sarcophagus

Second century Roman piece looted from Turkey and returned in a deal that included a tax write off for the buyer.

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Ixkun Stela 5

In 1972 looters heated this Maya monument and doused it in water, causing it to break into easily-transportable fragments.

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Las Limas Monument 1

Well-known Olmec greenstone statue stolen from a Mexican museum and abandoned in a Texas hotel room after traffickers were unable to sell it. 

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Mosaic Maya Mask

Mosaic stone mask said to have been looted from a Mexican cave and now in the collection of Dumbarton Oaks.