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.

Pottery Returned from Ban Chiang (photo from the UCL website)

Ban Chiang

Ban Chiang is a badly looted archaeological site in north-east Thailand.

The Huaca at Batan Grande

Batán Grande

Sicán/Lambayeque cultural site systematically looted from the early 20th century to the present.


Behbeit el-Hagar temple reliefs

In 2004 a piece of temple relief was returned to Egypt from Christie’s New York...

Changsha bowls from Belitung, Photo by Michael Flecker

Belitung Shipwreck

Ninth century CE Arab dhow shipwreck off the coast of Indonesia, commercially salvaged in 1998 and criticized by Western academics after a proposed exhibition of the shipwreck by the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery in 2011.


Benghazi Treasure

The so-called Benghazi Treasure is a group of antiquities that was excavated in Cyrenaica after the First World War during the Italian occupation of Libya (Bailey 2011).

Bijbels Museum Egyptian items

Bijbels Museum theft

Egyptian artefacts stolen from the Bijbels Museum in Amsterdam and returned by Christie’s New York...

Brooklyn Coptic Fake Sculpture from the Brooklyn Museum

Brooklyn Museum and Fake Coptic Art

Brooklyn Museum was considered to have one of the largest and most significant collections of Coptic Art in the world, until serious doubts were raised over the authenticity of many of the pieces.

Sipan Monkey Head Bead

John Bourne Collection

Collection of Pre-Conquest metal objects, some of which were purchased in the United States in 1987 and were later identified as being from the site of Sipán, Peru.