Culture in Crisis podcast season two: Fighting the Illicit Trade

From the looting of archaeological sites to the auctioning of stolen antiquities, the long and complex chain of criminal activity which connects the illicit trade of cultural property stretches through many hands and numerous countries around the globe.

Fighting the Illicit Trade is a podcast series bringing together the international experts working to prevent the illegal trade of cultural goods – each person fighting a battle to rescue cultural heritage at a different stage of its underground journey. We look at the actions taken at source, through transit, and upon arrival at its destination.

The theft and sale of cultural property robs communities of their past, present and future. It lines the pockets of international criminal networks and has been shown to directly finance terrorism. Through this series we hope to highlight valuable initiatives working to prevent the illicit trade and gather recommendations on how to build on these efforts in the future.

S2 E1: Looking into Looting

Dr Bob Bewley, Co-founder and Project Director of the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East & North Africa (EAMENA) project, joins the Culture in Crisis team to discuss how the project’s work to record and monitor archaeological sites is helping to prevent the illicit trade.

From Mauritania to Iran, we explore the value of mapping the changing landscapes of archaeological heritage and the many agents contributing to its untimely loss. We discuss the impact of regional conflict on the prevalence of looting – and how technology can be used to fight back against these criminal activities.

S2 E2: Ancient Stones to Dinosaur Bones

Dr Donna Yates, Archaeologist and Associate Professor of Criminology, talks to the team about the interconnectivity of trading in the illicit trafficking world; from ancient objects and rare wildlife – to dinosaur fossils!

We talk about Donna’s developing research into these connected criminal networks, asking what it is about these valuable objects that drives people to violate major international laws, as collectors or suppliers of rare and precious objects.

S2 E3: Cultural Custodians in Cairo

Omniya Abdel Barr, an Egyptian Architect specialising in cultural heritage, talks to the team about her battle to protect the Mamluk Minbars of Cairo, and how the local community are working together to prevent the international trafficking of these valuable religious objects.

We explore how Omniya and the local guardians are working together to protect sites, gather information from historic records to provide evidence for thefts, and trace these illicit journeys in an attempt to prevent their ultimate sale on the market.

S2 E4: International Trafficking Culture

Deborah Lehr (Chairman) and Tess Davies (Executive Director) from the US based Antiquities Coalition join the team to discuss international policy, government engagement and legal systems designed to help the fight against the trafficking of culture.

We explore how the issue of the illicit trade is being dealt with by governments around the world, and the Antiquities Coalition’s work to build political will amongst these players to address the problem.

S2 E5: Criminology & Cultural Heritage Crime

Anya Eber, a doctoral candidate investigating the role of specialised law enforcement units in preventing the illicit trade, joins the Culture in Crisis team to discuss how networks of guardianship are working to disrupt conditions for criminal activity.

We explore how the discipline of Criminology is adding to our understanding of transnational heritage crime, and how squads from Scotland Yard and the FBI are working to police the illicit antiquities market.

S2 E6: Returning Gods

Vijay Kumar, founder of the India Pride Project, joins the team to discuss his work to raise awareness for cultural property theft in India and how he and his team are working to bring back the country’s stolen Gods to the communities who have been robbed of them.

We hear about the social media initiative formed to combat the rampant looting of Indian art treasures, their assistance in the restitution of a record number of artefacts back to India, and how their team took on one of the most prolific antiquities smugglers of the modern age.

S2 E7: You’ve Gotta Have (Good) Faith

Leila Amineddoleh, Art & Cultural Heritage Lawyer, joins the team to talk about provenance, ‘good faith’ purchasers, and the devil in the detail of due diligence.

We discuss case studies of those who have fallen foul to the legal, financial and reputational consequences of buying stolen cultural property, as well as giving guidance on what makes for a ‘good’ collector. Looking into object histories we explore the murky world of false provenance and ask: just how ‘good’ do ‘good faith’ purchasers have to be?