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. 


Museum of the Bible Puts Spotlight on Stolen Antiquities

November 16, 2017

Morag Kersel, a former Visiting Fellow and member of the Neubauer Collegium's Past for Sale research team, joins NPR's On Point to discuss the opening of the Museum of the Bible and the controversy surrounding illicit artifacts.

Heritage in Peril

August 14, 2017

In this Q&A and podcast with The University of Chicago Magazine, the research team on the Neubauer Collegium Past for Sale project discuss how the looting of antiquities puts our cultural heritage in peril—and what to do about it.

What’s Really Important About the NEA

March 29, 2017

Faculty Fellow Lawrence Rothfield (The Past for Sale) reflects on the importance of the National Endowment for the Arts in this article from the Chicago Reader by Joe Raedle. 

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 >>


There are no events associated with this project yet.