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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Antiquities Trafficking, Art Crime, Looting and Cultural Heritage Destruction: Home

A guide to resources on criminal activities related to archaeological sites and antiquities including looting, trafficking, and destruction of cultural heritage by Ellen Belcher

Reference Books

For definitions try searching Gale Virtual Reference Library or any of our other Encyclopedia Databases. Since Antiquities trafficking follows the same routes/criminal processes as trafficking of goods such as illegal drugs and/or guns and/or human trafficking, consulting general trafficking resources is recommended such as Illicit trafficking: a reference handbook Reference - HV6252 .K45 2005  Or try searching "Smuggling" as a subject term in the CUNY+ Catalog.

CQ Researcher

For an overview of this topic, this report is recommended:

Bettelheim, A., & Adams, R. (2007, April 13). Stolen antiquities. CQ Researcher, 17, 313-336. Retrieved from

Definition - Illicit Antiquties

From: Brodie, N. (2008). Illicit Antiquities. In D. M. Pearsall (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Archaeology (Vol. 2, pp. 1489-1496). Oxford, UK: Academic Press. 

"An illicitly traded archaeological artifact (illicit antiquity) is one that has at sometime been traded in contravention of national or international legal regulations. Typically, it will have been removed illegally from an archaeological site or monument, and/ or exported illegally from its country of origin. Possibly, it will have been stolen from a museum or other cultural institution, or from a private owner. The act of removal is normally unrecorded and probably destructive. Illicit antiquities are often sold by reputable vendors without any public indication of ownership history (provenance)." Read more of this entry on Gale Virtual Reference Library [CUNY use only]

Definition - Antiquities Theft

from: Intres, L. (2013). Antiquities Theft. In L. M. Salinger (Ed.), Encyclopedia of White-Collar and Corporate Crime (2nd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 39-41). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference.

"Few people are aware that the illegal trafficking of stolen antiquities provides financing for criminal and even terrorist operations. By purchasing stolen antiquities, some buyers unwittingly or indifferently help meet the financial needs of countries with which they may even be at war. For example, it is quite possible, if not likely, that the cash used by an American or allied buyer to purchase illegally excavated antiquities is funding the cause of insurgent groups in the Middle East. The buyers do so by participating in the world's black market for unprovenanced (not having proper legal documentation) antiquities, stolen from Middle Eastern countries and smuggled into Europe, America, and other wealthy nations. The international sale of treasures, stolen by grave robbers and archaeological site looters and trafficked through reputable museums and brokerage firms, may exceed $3 billion per year, according to one Interpol analyst. Other estimates place it as high as $5 billion annually. Private collectors of ancient archaeological treasures represent an overwhelming majority of the illegal purchases of humankind's historic iconology. However, over the past decade, some of the world's most reputable museums and brokerage firms have also been found to traffic in stolen antiquities...." Read More of this entry on Gale Virtual Reference Library    [CUNY use only]

Definition - Antiquities Protection & War

from: Lerner, A. W. (2004). Archeology and Artifacts, Protection of During War. In K. L. Lerner & B. W. Lerner (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence and Security (Vol. 1, pp. 45-48). Detroit: Gale.

"Plundering is a practice as ancient as warfare itself. With the development of the world's great civilizations, the proverbial "spoils of war" often included national and cultural treasures, including priceless art and antiquities. The looting of exotic, foreign treasure filled the national coffers and museums of the victorious, while depleting the vanquished of tangible remnants of their history. The evolution of warfare, both technical and philosophical, altered international perceptions on the seizure of cultural goods. However, today's international bans on the looting and trafficking of antiquities, as well as the expectation that cultural sites remain protected during wartime, took three centuries to come to fruition...." Read more of this entry on Gale Virtual Reference Library [CUNY use only]

Subject Guide

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Ellen Belcher
Lloyd Sealy Library

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

899 Tenth Ave

New York City 10019