Investigating Antiquities Trafficking

Yates, D. (2021), ‘Investigating Antiquities Trafficking’, Global Investigative Journalism Network, 20 September: online.

The illicit trade in antiquities is a form of transnational crime that connects the theft at heritage sites to the elite world of the global art market, often via a web of organized crime. Because of the beauty and social significance of the remains of the ancient past, there is a strong demand for antiquities within North American, European, and Asian markets. These markets inspire the removal of cultural objects from lower income countries to former colonial powers, and the redefinition of shared heritage as a private commodity. In response, many antiquities-rich countries have criminalized the removal and marketing of antiquities so that cultural heritage can be preserved for the public good. Yet demand causes supply; high demand for newly discovered antiquities coupled with the absence of legitimate pathways for obtaining them has resulted in the development of criminal supply lines.

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