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Stolen Heritage

Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage in the EU and the MENA Region

edited by

Arianna Traviglia    Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology-IIT    

Lucio Milano    Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italia    

Cristina Tonghini    Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italia    

Riccardo Giovanelli    Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italia    



It is a well-known fact that organised crime has developed into an international network including very diverse actors – ranging from the simple ‘grave diggers’ to powerful and wealthy white-collar professionals – that adopt illegal practices like money laundering, fraud and forgery. This criminal system, ultimately, damages and disintegrates our cultural identity and, in some cases, fosters political corruption, terrorism or civil unrest through the transnational and illicit trafficking of cultural property. The forms of ‘ownership’ of Cultural Heritage are often indistinct, and – depending on the national legislation of reference – the proprietorship and trade of historical and artistic assets of value may be legitimate or not. Casual collectors and criminals have always taken advantage from these ambiguities and managed to place on the market items obtained by destruction and looting of museums, monuments and archaeological areas. Thus, over the years, even the most renowned museum institutions might have - more or less consciously – displayed, hosted or lent cultural objects of illicit origin. Ransacking, thefts, clandestine exports and disputable transactions are crimes that primarily affect countries that are rich in artistic and archaeological assets, but such activities do not involve just some countries. This is an international border-crossing phenomenon that starts in given countries and expands to many others. Some are briefly passed through while a handful of powerful and rich ones are the actual destination marketplaces. Drawing from the experience of the conference Stolen Heritage (Venice, December 2019), held in the framework of the H2020 NETCHER (NETwork and digital platform for Cultural Heritage Enhancing and Rebuilding) project, this edited volume focuses on illicit trafficking in cultural property addressing the issue from a multidisciplinary perspective and featuring papers authored by international experts and professionals actively involved in Cultural Heritage protection. The articles included expand on such diverse topics as the European legislation regulating import, export, trade and restitution of cultural objects; ‘conflict antiquities’ and cultural heritage at risk in the Near and Middle East; looting activities and illicit excavations in Italy; the use of technologies to counter looting practices and the publication of unprovenanced items. This collection is meant as a valuable resource to disseminate new results of the research as well as to facilitate a better understanding of the international legislation related to the protection of Cultural Heritage.

March 31, 2021
Copyright: © 2021 Arianna Traviglia, Lucio Milano, Cristina Tonghini, Riccardo Giovanelli. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

Table of contents

Michela De Bernardin    Riccardo Giovanelli    Arianna Traviglia   
March 31, 2021
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UNESCO’s Mobilization and Action
Edouard Planche   
March 31, 2021
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Recent Developments
Lauso Zagato   
March 31, 2021
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A Seriously Threatened Cultural Heritage
Daniele Morandi Bonacossi   
March 31, 2021
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Francesca Cigna    Deodato Tapete   
March 31, 2021
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Evelyne Godfrey    Andris Kairiss    Marianne Moedlinger   
March 31, 2021
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