Antiquities as Global Contraband: What Do We Know, and What Can We Do?

Wednesday, May 3 - Thursday, May 4

Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
5701 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60637

Systematic looting at archaeological sites in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, along with increased evidence of a relationship between antiquities trafficking and political instability, have made antiquities a key international policy issue. This two-day conference brings together scholars, practitioners, and policy analysts to discuss what we know about this phenomenon and what can be done to stop it. Speakers will present a range of conceptual and methodological positions, from market-based solutions and cutting-edge satellite analysis of looting patterns to first-hand qualitative study of how civilians are trying to protect cultural heritage and prevent artifacts from becoming contraband in the first place. The conference is the capstone event for the "Past for Sale" project, a three-year, interdisciplinary study of the global trade in looted antiquities, sponsored by the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society. The conference is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, May 3

9:00 a.m.
Coffee and Welcome
Lawrence Rothfield (Department of English and of Comparative Literature, University of Chicago)

9:15 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Panel 1: Lessons from Afghanistan
Brent Huffman (Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University): “Mes Aynak: Past, Present, and Future of an Ancient Buddhist City in Afghanistan”
Kathryn Franklin (CAMEL Lab, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago): “Remote Assessments of the Cultural Heritage Situation in Afghanistan: Results from the Afghan Heritage Mapping Project”
Co-authors: Anthony Lauricella, Emily Hammer, Rebecca Seifried
Gil Stein and Michael T. Fisher (Oriental Institute, OI-NMA Partnership, University of Chicago): “Assessing the Losses:  Integrating Data Sources to Develop the First Quantified List of Artifacts Looted from the National Museum of Afghanistan”
Co-author: Alejandro Gallego-Lopez
Discussant: Morag Kersel (Department of Anthropology, DePaul University)

11:00 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.  Break

11:15 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Panel 2: Lessons from Iraq and Syria
Amr Al-Azm (Department of Social Sciences, Shawnee State University): “Protecting Cultural Heritage the Low Tech Way: The Role of Non-state Actors in Preserving Syria’s Cultural Heritage”
Michael Danti (American Schools of Oriental Research-Cultural Heritage Initiative/Colgate University): “Ground-based Monitoring of Looting and Site Damage in Syria and Northern Iraq”
Jesse Casana (Department of Anthropology, Dartmouth College): “Satellite Imagery-based Monitoring of Looting and Archaeological Site Damage in the Syrian Civil War”
Patty Gerstenblith (DePaul University College of Law): “Lessons Learned and Not Learned: The Legal and Heritage Perspectives”
Discussant: Fiona Greenland (Neubauer Collegium)

1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.  Lunch

2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Keynote Address: Richard Kurin
Introduction: Jonathan Lear (Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society; John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor at the Committee on Social Thought and in the Department of Philosophy, University of Chicago)
Keynote Speaker: Richard Kurin (Acting Provost and Under Secretary for Museums and Research, Smithsonian Institution): “Selling and Destroying Cultural Heritage: Governments’ Proaction, Reaction and Inaction”
Respondent: James Robinson (Faculty Director of the Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts, Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago)

4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Panel 3: The Past Sold Gallery Exhibition
Morag Kersel (Department of Anthropology, DePaul University)
Fiona Greenland (Neubauer Collegium)
Ken Sawyer (McCormick Theological Seminary)
Gil Stein (Oriental Institute, University of Chicago)

5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, May 4

9:00 a.m.
Coffee and Welcome
Fiona Greenland (Neubauer Collegium)

9:15 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Panel 4: The Illegal Movement of People and Things
James Marrone (Department of Economics, University of Chicago): “Modeling Market Values from Looted Syrian Artifacts: Preliminary Findings from the MANTIS Project”
Co-authors: Fiona Greenland, Oya Topcuoglu, Tasha Vorderstrasse
Richard Udell (Environmental Crimes Section, US Department of Justice): “Wildlife Trafficking and U.S. Auction Houses”
Hans-Jakob Schindler (Coordinator, ISIL, [Da’esh], Al-Qaida and Taliban Monitoring Team, United Nations Security Council): “United Nations Security Council Monitoring Team Work Against Terror Financing ISIL (Da’esh) Smuggling of Antiquities”
Discussant: Mark Bradley (Pozen Center for Human Rights, University of Chicago)

11:00 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.  Break

11:15 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Panel 5: Financing Site Protection and Market Policing: Policy Options
Larry Rothfield (Department of English and of Comparative Literature, University of Chicago): “Who Should Pay to Protect the Archaeological Past? A Pigovian Approach”
Michael Kremer (Department of Economics, Harvard University): “Protecting Antiquities: A Role for Long-Term Leases?”
Co-author: Tom Wilkening (Department of Economics, University of Melbourne)
Larry Coben (Sustainable Preservation Initiative): “Economically Sustainable Preservation: What Really Works”
Discussant: Daniel Hemel (University of Chicago Law School)

Download the abstracts >


Fill out my online form.