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.

Black and white photo of a Maya stone stela face lying on the ground, it depicts a man in elaborate regalia, but the stela has clearly been broken into several large and irregularly shaped pieces.

Naranjo Stela 30

Stolen Maya sculpture seized by US Authorities when a crate carrying it broke open in the port of Houston Naranjo is a Maya site located near Guatemala’s border with Belize. It is 18 km north of the town of Melchor de Mencos via a logging road built in the 1950s (Peabody Museum n.d.). Naranjo was discovered in 1905 by Teobert Maler, who recorded 32 stela at the site, including Naranjo Stela 30...

Wanboro 85 looting damage courtesy David Graham SyAS


The term ‘nighthawk’ is generally used to refer to an individual who knowingly uses a metal detector in illegal activity, particularly involving theft from a protected archaeological site and/or from private land.

Nimrud Earrings

Nimrud Earrings

In 2010 Christie’s New York returned a pair of Neo-Assyrian gold earrings to Iraq.


Nok Terracottas

Terracotta figurative sculpture found on the Bauchi plateau of Nigeria. Heavily looted from the 1970s onwards.

Yajaw Te' K'inich ruler of Mutul de San Jose on a vase from the November Collection, MFA 1988.1177

November Collection of Maya Pottery

A spectacular collection of Classic Maya pottery thought to have been systematically looted from Guatemalan sites throughout the 1980s now in the possession of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.