CommUNITY on the Illicit Trade in Cultural Material

About the Community

Established: 2003
Last renewed: 2022
Marianne Mödlinger (
Andris Kairiss (


  1. prevent and contrast looting and illegal excavations;
  2. limit trafficking and accept selling of cultural heritage to those objects that have a strong proof of legal and ethical origin (e.g. pre-1970 known and proven as valid origin, or/and as in the UNIDROIT convention (1995), or the Kulturgüterrückgabegesetz, Germany (2016);
  3. develop strategies for a common European legal basis for the protection of archaeological sites, artefacts and tangible cultural heritage in general;
  4. develop an European standardization for the protection of cultural heritage and archaeological finds;
  5. establish partnerships with specialists and enforcement agencies working on similar issues (e.g. UNESCO, UNIDROIT, Interpol, Italian Carabinieri, UK Art and Antiques Unit et al.);
  6. raise public and institutional awareness of the impact of the damaging and destructing of cultural heritage and the legal consequences of doing so.


We aim to prevent and reduce looting and illegal excavations by a variety of far-reaching strategies, including organising public activities and raising of public and institutional awareness of the negative consequences of illegal excavations for society, such as loss of cultural and scientific value, common history, identity, and socio-economic (incl. touristic) potential. Also, we aim to raise public awareness of the value of archaeological finds, and their context for everyone (providing information at schools, exhibitions, disseminating information material, collecting and publishing of information online (blog and social media accounts)).

A special focus is on so-called ‘high end’ collectors; this is about raising ethical issues, making it more difficult to justify unethical collecting practices in light of the impact they have on archaeological sites, and the loss of contextual information of the finds in general. Significant attention is also drawn to effective regulation of and engagement with legal artefact hunters (e.g. metal detectorists in countries where this hobby is legal).

Moreover, we offer cooperation with public agencies, international organizations, local and international law enforcement professionals, and specialists working on similar issues (UNESCO, UNODC, UNIDROIT, Interpol, Europol, ICOM, national law enforcement and heritage protection agencies, academia and researchers). Such activity inter alia raises the profile of 'heritage crimes', and result in productive partnerships (including advising export licensing authorities, customs and border control, and others).

We aim to provide a holistic overview and publish materials on the current situation on heritage (archaeological sites and artifacts-related) crime in every member country. We are collecting and publishing corresponding information on our web page available at We kindly ask EAA-members to contribute to this activity by providing information about their countries. Another aspiration is the creation of country-specific brochures both for archaeologists and the interested public, summarizing the current legal status, and the negative effects of unauthorised excavations, artefact hunting, theft from museums and collections, and archaeological material originating from armed conflicts taking place in various parts of the world.

Ethical aspects are very significant in the professional activities of archaeologists, which is why we work in close cooperation with other EAA-colleagues on the creation of the corresponding Code of Ethics.


Chair: Marianne Mödlinger, Genoa

Vice-chair: Andris Kairiss, Riga

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Committee on the Illicit Trade in Cultural Material
(content available to current EAA members

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