Antiquities Trafficking

Picture of James Angelos

Curated by James Angelos

Why is there such a vast clandestine market for looted ancient treasures?

  • The ancient Khmer Empire— located in what is today Cambodia and its neighboring countries — is known for its ornate stone temples decorated with sculptures of Buddhist and Hindu deities.
  • Many of those statues were plundered decades ago, and continue to be bought and sold on the black market, ending up in private collections and museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • Recent investigations shed light on the seedy and complex methods — including money laundering, and the use of offshore banks — used to hide the provenance of these plundered artifacts.
  • Khmer artifacts are just one example in a larger story. Despite rising awareness of the problem, there continues to be a vast market for antiquities plundered from ancient sites around the world.
  • Just on Monday, a special team of New York prosecutors announced that a billionaire hedge fund manager and known antiquities collector would surrender 180 artifacts worth some $70 million.
  • The fund manager said he was not aware the artifacts were looted. But often, collectors and museums look the other way when it comes to verifying the provenance of such artifacts.
  • While prosecutors have made inroads into stopping trafficking, today our read list explores why it continues to be so difficult to find and return looted works to where they belong.
The Washington Post
+ 3 more

4 articles on this topic


The Metropolitan Museum of Art Is Reviewing 45 Antiquities That Cambodian Officials Believe Were Stolen From the Country

2 min read

Kim Kardashian caught up in lawsuit revealing shameful art world reality - Opinion

article image
4 min read

Want to Buy Some Stolen Antiquities? Try Facebook.

4 min read