CommUNITY on the Illicit Trade in Cultural Material

About the Community

Established: 2003
Last renewed: 2019
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 certificate 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 (1999 and 2007), which is planned to be even stricter in 2016);
  3. develop strategies for a common European legal basis for the protection of archaeological sites and material culture;
  4. develop an European standardization for the protection of cultural heritage and archaeological finds;
  5. establish partnerships with specialists and enforcement agencies working in similar issues (e.g. UNESCO, Italian Carabinieri, UK Art and Antiques Unit);
  6. raise public and institutional awareness of the impact of the destruction of cultural heritage and the legal consequences of doing so.

Expected outcomes

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 awareness of the negative consequences of illegal excavations for the public, such as loss of cultural value, common history, identity, and touristic potential. Also, we aim to raise public awareness of the value of archaeological finds, and their context for everyone (information at schools, exhibitions, information material, brochures, collecting and publishing of information in a public database and web map). We will do this through such strategic use of press, TV, and social media.

A special focus will be on so-called ‘high end’ collectors; we hope to raise ethical issues, making it more difficult to justify their collecting practices in light of the impact it has on archaeological sites, and the loss of contextual information of the find in general. Significant attention will be 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 plan to offer cooperation with local and international police officers, government agencies, and specialists working in similar issues (UNESCO, Interpol, Italian Carabinieri, and others). This will also raise the profile of 'heritage crimes', and result in partnerships with enforcement authorities (including advising export licensing authorities, customs and border control, and others).

The committee moreover aims to provide a holistic overview and publish regularly reports on the current situation on heritage crime in every membership country. Over time we will kindly ask EAA-members to contribute to our studies with information about their country. 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 for all of us of unauthorised excavations, artefact hunting, theft from museums/public collections, and archaeological material originating from armed conflicts taking place in various parts of the world.

Further strategies, such as a Code of Ethics, standards for ‘responsible’ private collections and museums will be discussed at our first meeting in Vilnius this year.



Chair: Marianne Mödlinger, Bordeaux

Vice-chair: Andris Kairiss,Riga

Members: George Abungu, ICOM; Elisa Bernard, University of Padova; Matija Cresnar, Ljubljana; Adam Daubney, Lincoln; Elif Denel, American Reseach Institute, Ankara; Marko Mele, Graz; Mehmet Özdogan, Istanbul; Christos Tsirogiannis, University of Cambridge; Marit Van Cant, Brussels; Armin Volkmann, Heidelberg; Nurcan Yalman, Istanbul.

Ex officio members: Manuel Fernandez-Gotz, Edinburgh; Alessandro Vanzetti, Rome


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Committee on the Illicit Trade in Cultural Material
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