Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Looted Heritage: Monitoring the Illicit Antiquities Trade

[First posted in AWOL 17 February 2012, updated 18 February 2015]

Looted Heritage: Monitoring the Illicit Antiquities Trade
"Looted Heritage" is a project of Dr. Shawn Graham, Associate Professor of Digital Humanities at Carleton University in Ottawa Canada.
This site monitors various social media and regular media feeds for stories and reports about the trade in antiquities, which then get mapped. The more such things are made visible, the better our chances of spotting important trends and developments. It also maps academic work on the problem of the illicit antiquities trade.
This site also serves as a training ground for some of my students in the Digital Humanities and Digital History at Carleton University.
This project is not affiliated with the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre at Cambridge University (which is, sadly, closed). The Centre provides some statistics on the nature and scale of the illicit antiquities trade; these statistics date to 1999; the problem has only grown with the wars and disruptions of the past decade:

Some statistics

  • Italy: 120,000 antiquities seized by police in five years;
  • Italy: 100,000+ Apulian tombs devastated;
  • Niger: in southwest Niger between 50 and 90 per cent of sites have been destroyed by looters;
  • Turkey: more than 560 looters arrested in one year with 10,000 objects in their possession;
  • Cyprus: 60,000 objects looted since 1974;
  • China: catalogues of Sotheby’s sales found in the poor countryside: at least 15,000 sites vandalized, 110,000 illicit cultural objects intercepted in four years;
  • Cambodia: 300 armed bandits surround Angkor Conservation compound, using hand grenades to blow apart the monuments; 93 Buddha heads intercepted in June this year, 342 other objects a month later;
  • Syria: the situation is now so bad a new law has been passed which sends looters to jail for 15 years;
  • Belize: 73 per cent of major sites looted;
  • Guatemala: thieves now so aggressive they even looted from the laboratory at Tikal;
  • Peru: 100,000 tombs looted, half the known sites.
-Brodie and Watson,
Dr. David Gill, Professor of Archaeological Heritage and Head of the Division of Humanities at University Campus Suffolk, has blogged about the problem of looting for many years at Looting Matters. Professor Gill has recently been awarded the Archaeological Institute of America's Public Service Award for his work. I extend my congratulations to Professor Gill, whose blog was in part the inspiration for this crowd-sourced project.
I invite you to participate by contributing information to this site, because, indeed, looting matters.
You may download all reports on this site in CSV format at the download page.

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