Illicit Antiquities: The Theft of Culture and the Extinction of Archaeology

Illicit Antiquities: The Theft of Culture and the Extinction of Archaeology

Illicit Antiquities: The Theft of Culture and the Extinction of Archaeology

Illicit Antiquities: The Theft of Culture and the Extinction of Archaeology


The exploitation of archaeological sites for commercial gain is a serious problem worldwide. In peace and during wartime archaeological sites and cultural institutions, both on land and underwater, are attacked and their contents robbed for sale on an international 'antiquities' market. Objects are excavated without record, smuggled across borders and sold for exorbitant prices in the salesrooms of Europe and North America. In some countries this looting has now reached such a scale as to threaten the very survival of their archaeological and cultural heritage.This volume highlights the deleterious effects of the trade on cultural heritage, but in particular it focuses upon questions of legal and local responses: How can people become involved in the preservation of their past and what, in economic terms, are the costs and benefits? Are international conventions or export restrictions effective in diminishing the volume of the trade and the scale of its associated destruction?


One World Archaeology is dedicated to exploring new themes, theories and applications in archaeology from around the world. The series of edited volumes began with contributions that were either part of the inaugural meeting of the World Archaeological Congress in Southampton, UK in 1986 or were commissioned specifically immediately after the meeting - frequently from participants who were inspired to make their own contributions. Since then the World Archaeological Congress has held three further major international congresses in Barquisimeto, Venezuela (1990), New Delhi, India (1994), and Cape Town, South Africa (1999) and a series of more specialized 'inter-congresses' focusing on Archaeological ethics and the treatment of the dead (Vermillion, US, 1989), Urban origins in Africa (Mombassa, Kenya, 1993), and The destruction and restoration of cultural heritage (Brač, Croatia, 1998). In each case these meetings have attracted a wealth of original and often inspiring work from many countries.

The result has been a set of richly varied volumes that are at the cutting edge of (frequently multidisciplinary) new work. They aim to provide a breadth of perspective that charts the many and varied directions that contemporary archaeology is taking.

As series editors we should like to thank all editors and contributors for their hard work in producing these books. We should also like to express our thanks to Peter Ucko, inspiration behind both the World Archaeological Congress and the One World Archaeology series. Without him none of this would have happened.

Martin Hall, Cape Town, South Africa

Peter Stone, Newcastle, UK

Julian Thomas, Manchester, UK

June 2000

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