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 brought together scholars, practitioners, and policy analysts to discuss what we know about this phenomenon and what can be done to stop it. Speakers presented 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 was 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.
A panel with The Past Sold co-curators, Fiona Greenland and Morag Kersel, who presented the contrasting episodes of artifact movement featured in the exhibition: the legal, state-sponsored sale of artifacts from the Early Bronze Age site of Bab adh Dhra’ (Jordan) during the late 1970s, and the illegal looting of archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq during the current and ongoing armed conflict in the region.
Dealing with Heritage: New Policy Approaches
May 19-20, 2016
Taking into account how the existing legal trade in antiquities works, this two-day conference addressed what specific steps, if any, the collecting community could and should take to better prevent the looting of archaeological sites in the future.
A workshop associated with The Past for Sale: New Approaches to the Study of Archaeological Looting, a project of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society. Co-sponsored by the University of Chicago Law School.
Conversation and Lunch with Professor Kavita Singh
April 18, 2016
Kavita Singh is a Professor at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, where she teaches courses on the history of Indian painting and the history and politics of museums. She has published essays on issues of colonial history, repatriation, secularism and religiosity, fraught national identities, and the memorialisation of difficult histories as they relate tomuseums in South Asia and beyond.
The Idols of ISIS
February 29, 2016
On February 26, 2015, the Islamic State released a video onto the internet depicting destruction of ancient sculptures in the Mosul Museum, claiming that these sculptures were idols that needed to be destroyed. In this talk Aaron Tugendhaft, Assistant Collegiate Professor in the Humanities, explored how religion, politics, and art intersect in this image of image destruction and raise questions about the aestheticization of politics in the age of the selfie.
Toward a Framework for Critical Engagement with Crime Control Policy in Trafficking Cultural Objects
November 16, 2015
A Discussion featuring Professor Simon Mackenzie (Department of Criminology, University of Glasgow) and Dr. Neil Brodie and Dr. Donna Yates (Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, University of Glasgow). The Trafficking Culture research group (www.traffickingculture.org) gathers, analyses and publishes information on the global traffic in looted cultural objects. This talk reviews some of the project’s work over the last four years and develops various components of a crime prevention framework to advance thinking about controlling the illicit market. Regional ethnographic case study evidence gathered by the project will be reviewed and used to explore some of the regulatory challenges. Using contemporary examples of looting and conflict, the speakers reflected on reasons why current crime prevention policy fails in this area, and propose improved approaches.
Protecting Antiquities: A Role for Long-Term Lease?
October 29 2015
Saieh Hall for Economics
Can leasing antiquities help in the fight against antiquities looting? Join us for a lecture by Michael Kremer, the Gates Professor of Developing Societies in the Department of Economics at Harvard University. Prof. Kremer will discuss the potential positive effects of leasing arrangements, including economic incentives to cultural institutions and collectors.
"The Problem with Syria’s Looting Problem"
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Brian I. Daniels, University of Pennsylvania Cultural Heritage Center
"Filling the Gaps in the Protection of Cultural Heritage during Armed Conflict: The Paradigms of Syria and Iraq"
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Patty Gerstenblith, Distinguished Research Professor, DePaul University College of Law
Mexico to Bethlehem: UNESCO Between Two Eras of Global Cultural Governance
Thursday, May 7, 2015
Harris School of Public Policy, Room 289B
Alexandra Kowalski (Fung Global Fellow at Princeton University) will discuss the change in paradigms of cultural governance--a shift from cultural politics to heritage policy--and assess its impact on the place of culture in international relations.
March 16-17, 2015
The University of Chicago Center in Delhi, Connaught Place
This conference brought together anthropologists, archaeologists, art historians, and cultural heritage scholars and activists to discuss contemporary threats to India's ancient cultural patrimony. Papers covered a range of empirical cases and considered both current approaches and potentially beneficial interventions into the field of cultural heritage protection and study. This conference focused in particular on the processes that lead to artifacts' and artworks' being sold on the international market without legal authorization.
Archaeological Looting: Realities and Possibilities for New Policy Approaches
February 27-28, 2015
Theft of artifacts and artworks from archaeological sites represents a tragic, growing percentage of crimes against art. This conference brought together leading authorities to tackle these key questions: Who loots, and why? What is the impact of looting on objects, archaeological contexts, and nearby communities? How can we take steps to protect ancient art?
Special event: Dance of the Maize God film screening
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Painted vases, looted from tombs, have opened an extraordinary window on the ancient Maya. But the race to unearth these treasures has resulted in vast
destruction. Dance of the Maize God explores the royal life and rich mythology of the Maya, as well as the tangled issues surrounding looted art. The film’s director, David Lebrun, was on hand to provide commentary and answer questions.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
"The Impact of Provenance in the Art Market for Antiquities"
Silvia Beltrametti, University of Chicago Law School
Thursday, October 16, 2014
“The Price of Pots? The Market for Holy Land Artifacts”
Morag Kersel, Department of Anthropology, DePaul University
Humanities Day October 18, 2014
Antiquities Under Siege, Again
In the wake of the 2003 looting of the Iraq Museum and the consequent pillaging of thousands of archaeological sites, UChicago’s Cultural Policy Center convened an array of experts (legal, military, archaeological, economic) to better understand what went wrong and to develop recommendations on steps to be taken to prevent or mitigate future threats posed to cultural heritage in times of armed conflict. Recent events in the Middle East have raised new alarms about the future of the past. In this presentation, we reviewed the events of 2003 and assessed both the progress made in disaster preparedness and response and the more difficult challenges posed by the new environment. We ended by pulling back to ask what more might be done to address the root cause of antiquities looting: the untrammeled international demand by collectors for artifacts.