About this Project

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. 


In new crackdown, antiquities authorities tighten noose around dealers, thieves

May 16, 2016

Regulatory agency mandates digital database, ‘closing the loopholes’ to prevent stolen artifacts reaching the Israeli market

-- The Times of Israel, By Ilan Ben Zion

Archaeology’s Information Revolution

March 3, 2016

In the near future, every archaeological artifact could be digitally connected to every other artifact.

-- The Atlantic by Adrienne Lafrance

Project Updates

Upcoming Conference
Dealing with Heritage: New Policy Approaches
May 19-20, Neubauer Collegium

What specific steps, if any, does the collecting community think could and should be taken to better prevent the looting of archaeological sites in the future?
Information, Schedule, and RSVP >>