The Past for Sale: New Approaches to the Study of Archaeological Looting and the IllicitTrafficking of Antiquities is a three-year interdisciplinary project hosted by the University of Chicago. With major funding from the Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society, the project aims to develop new ways of safeguarding archaeological sites, cultural heritage sites, and museums from looting and illicit collecting. Our aim is to advance both scholarly and policy goals.
The Past for Sale brings together archaeologists, anthropologists, art historians, social scientists, public policy experts, and legal scholars, in hopes of finding better answers to one of the most intractable problems facing those who care about culture: how to stem the worldwide epidemic of looting of archaeological sites and shrines. The last few decades have seen a burgeoning global demand for antiquities, even as governments in many archaeologically-rich countries have dramatically weakened, withered away, or even failed. And the existing system of cultural-heritage protection laws, international conventions, and governmental practices, designed decades ago is in dire need of updating to meet the challenges of our era. To spur new theorizing and policy thinking, we seek to clarify the general features of illicit antiquities markets, while also enumerating, through a comparative study of antiquities looting in several distinct regional contexts, variations in cultural, social, and political milieux and in the governmental frameworks within which looters, traffickers, and collectors operate. This empirical research, along with input from policy practitioners and stakeholders, will provide economists and policy experts with a robust understanding of the factors they need to consider in order to model the illicit antiquities market and explore realistic policy alternatives to better prevent the destruction of archaeological sites and shrines by looters.CFP | Archaeological Looting: New Approaches to an Ancient Problem A two-day conference at the University of Chicago 27-28 February 2015.