Destruction, looting, and trafficking

Major threats to cultural heritage come in two forms: destruction during military conflict and the looting of sites and collections. Both in antiquity and in contemporary times, we often see these destructive activities going hand in hand, but we also see a greater recognition that cultural remains should be protected.

videos + essays

Fact and fiction:  The explosion of Reims Cathedral during World War I
Fact and fiction: The explosion of Reims Cathedral during World War I

There are two sides to every story, and so it is here.

How a famous Greek bronze ended up in the Vatican
How a famous Greek bronze ended up in the Vatican

Taken from Greece, confiscated by an emperor and returned to the people.

We will need Monuments Men for as long as ancient sites remain battlefields
We will need Monuments Men for as long as ancient sites remain battlefields

“In the path of our advance will be found historical monuments and cultural centres which symbolise … all that we are fighting to preserve.”

A market for looted antiquities
A market for looted antiquities

Archaeological sites are regularly vandalized to satisfy the demand of the international art market.

What the bulldozers left behind: reclaiming Sicán’s past
What the bulldozers left behind: reclaiming Sicán’s past

Grave robbing destroyed much of the archaeological context in Sicán—can what remains unlock the past?

Mesa Verde and the preservation of Ancestral Puebloan heritage
Mesa Verde and the preservation of Ancestral Puebloan heritage

Archaeological sites are under constant threat from human and natural forces.

The Looting of Cambodian Antiquities
The Looting of Cambodian Antiquities

The royal site of Koh Ker was described as an outdoor museum—that all changed during the killing fields.

Save Culture – end trafficking
Save Culture – end trafficking

Conflict provides cover for art theft and trafficking—as war rages on, archaeological sites are pillaged.

Sotheby’s Returns Looted 10th Century Statue to Cambodia
Sotheby’s Returns Looted 10th Century Statue to Cambodia

Warned by an expert that this statue was “definitely stolen,” it took a lawsuit for Sotheby's to return it.

The Scourge of Looting: Trafficking Antiquities from Temple to Museum
The Scourge of Looting: Trafficking Antiquities from Temple to Museum

When conflict erupts in archaeologically rich countries, looted antiquities flood the art market.

Lost History: the terracotta sculpture of Djenné-Djenno
Lost History: the terracotta sculpture of Djenné-Djenno

Over 1000 of these sculptures were looted from Africa—now without context, they may never be understood.

Trafficking the past
Trafficking the past

Antiquities trafficking damages cultural heritage worldwide, and it will only stop when demand is reduced.