Looting and the world's archaeological heritage: the inadequate response

Brodie, N. and Renfrew, C. (2005), ‘Looting and the world’s archaeological heritage: the inadequate response’, Annual Review of Anthropology 34, 343–61.

The world’s archaeological heritage is under serious threat from illegal and destructive excavations that aim to recover antiquities for sale on the international market. These antiquities are sold without provenance, so that their true nature is hard to discern, and many are ultimately acquired by major museums in Europe and North America. The adoption in 1970 by UNESCO of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property created a new ethical environment in which museums and their representative associations adopted policies that were designed to guard against the acquisition of “unprovenanced,” and therefore most probably looted, antiquities. Unfortunately, over the past decade, U.S. museum associations have been advocating a more relaxed disposition, and the broader archaeological and anthropological communities are in significant measure responsible since they have met this unwelcome development largely in silence.