Community on the Illicit Trade in Cultural Material

Marianne Mödlinger1, Evelyne Godfrey2 and Andris Kairiss3

1University of Genoa, Italy/ Community Chair
2 Uffington Heritage Watch, England
3 Riga Technical University/ Community Vice Chair

The EAA established the Community on the Illicit Trade in Cultural Material in 2015. The Community invites Members to sign in on the EAA website and to check the Community’s website regularly to receive news and updates.

The archaeological record is unique and irreplaceable. It is, therefore, the duty and responsibility of every archaeologist to protect it, and so to contribute to the long-term preservation of our archaeological heritage. This includes a duty to raise the awareness of the general public and institutions regarding criminal activities, such as damage to or destruction of movable and immovable cultural heritage and illegal trafficking and trade in cultural material.

We as a Community encourage the protection of archaeological material culture and its context. We have ethical responsibilities to the artefacts and samples that we study, to the people with whom we work, to the people living in the areas from which those materials derive and also to the broader archaeological community and public. We act with political and socio-economic awareness, not only to protect cultural heritage for the future, but also out of responsibility for the present. We commit to questioning political, social, and economic decisions that might result in human suffering and in damage or destruction of cultural heritage.

The Community on the Illicit Trade in Cultural Material aims to:

  • raise public, institutional, and political awareness of looting and illegal excavations as well as the impact of damage and destruction of cultural heritage, and of legal and socio-economic consequences;
  • stop trafficking and illicit trade in cultural heritage;
  • develop strategies for a common European legal basis for the protection of archaeological heritage;
  • develop a new European Standard on the use of metal detectors to target archaeological artefacts;
  • establish partnerships with interested parties, such as customs & excise, national and international heritage protection organisations, and law enforcement and other agencies working on similar issues (for example: UNESCO, UNIDROIT, Interpol, the Italian Carabinieri, the UK London Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques Unit).

Europe is a leading region in the international trade in cultural heritage. Damage to and destruction of archaeological sites results in the loss of material culture and its contextual information, all of which is essential to understanding our past.

Members of the EAA should discourage the commercialisation of archaeological material. EAA members should not act as experts or advisors to auction houses, Ancient art and antiquities galleries and dealers or private collectors, if such expert advice or research is likely to be used to enhance the financial value of the objects. The publication of artefacts of illicit origin or doubtful provenance should be avoided, unless the doubtful background is clearly pointed out and problematised.

At the 2023 annual EAA meeting in Belfast, the Community is organising a “Roundtable Session of the EAA Community on the Illicit Trade in Cultural Material” (session 389). Members of the Community are also engaged in the session entitled “Repositories and Datasets as Operational Tools in Countering the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Goods” (session 714).

If you are interested in working further with the Community, please contact the chairs personally or via the Community website.

Go back to top