Live Webinar: Understanding and Approaching An Old Problem – A Conversation with the Editors of the Routledge Handbook of Heritage Destruction

Join us for this free webinar on Monday, November 13 at 9 AM EST.

Current events around the world underscore the critical need to examine the phenomenon of cultural heritage destruction. This issue, however, is far from new and takes on diverse forms and contexts, ranging from conflicts and wars to natural disasters and climate change, as well as urban development and construction.

The recently published Routledge Handbook of Heritage Destruction tackles this topic head on, presenting a comprehensive view of heritage destruction, the methods scholars have used to study it, and the results those methods have produced. On November 13, the Antiquities Coalition will bring together the editors for a live conversation on the development of the handbook and lessons learned from this resource on how to approach the problem of heritage destruction now and in the future. 

The discussion will be moderated by Helena Arose, Director of Programs for the Antiquities Coalition. Register here.


AC and EHRF Highlight the Importance of Protecting Cultural Heritage in eniGma Magazine

In the Middle East, cultural heritage is an unparalleled resource, inspiring artists, historians, and students to tell a story of the past. However, this heritage is under threat from bad actors looking to profit through the illicit trade of art and antiquities. 

In a recent interview with eniGma Magazine, our Co-Founder Peter Herdrich, and the Chairman of the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation (EHRF), Abdelhamid Salah, shared how the two organizations are collaborating to make culture-defining art widely accessible and how the wisdom of the past helps inform the future. The AC and EHRF are working with local communities to preserve the cultural heritage of countries in conflict and experiencing environmental risks, ultimately helping safeguard precious heritage for generations to come. 

With a rise in the illicit trade of art and antiquities, it is more important than ever for these two organizations to work together to bring digital access, conservation, and human solutions to an international audience. 

The Antiquities Coalition is proud to partner with EHRF and looks forward to future collaborations and continuing to work together to support and grow cultural heritage teams across the globe. 

Check out the full interview with eniGma Magazine here.

AC’s Ten Most Wanted Antiquities List Featured In The Guardian: UNESCO Planning a Virtual Museum of Stolen Cultural Artifacts

UNESCO, the culture branch of the United Nations, announced its plans for a first-of-its-kind virtual museum that will showcase looted antiquities from around the world. The goal of UNESCO’s proposed museum is to raise awareness of the dangers of cultural racketeering and the importance of cultural heritage. 

UNESCO has partnered with Interpol to develop a list of artifacts to virtually display utilizing a database of over 52,000 cultural heritage pieces that have been stolen from museums, collections, and archaeological sites worldwide. UNESCO will likely not release the featured objects in the museum until its opening in 2025. 

The Guardian was the first to detail UNESCO’s plan and referenced the AC’s Ten Most Wanted antiquities list, an illustrated guide to some of the most significant looted, stolen, and missing artifacts from around the world.

The Antiquities Coalition applauds UNESCO’s efforts to raise awareness around the trafficking of art and antiquities and return cultural heritage to its rightful home. Presenting the stories and significance of stolen heritage is a critical piece in the effort to combat looting, and the AC is hopeful that this will lead to the eventual repatriation of missing objects.

Check out the full article from The Guardian here.

Gods Threatened by the Art Market and Warfare: The AC Interviews Routledge Handbook of Heritage Destruction Authors

The art market’s demand for Cambodia’s material heritage has been high since the 1960s, with many of the nation’s sacred artifacts entering the illegal art market. In a chapter for The Routledge Handbook of Heritage Destruction, Antiquities Coalition Director of Programs, Helena Arose, alongside Angela Chiu and Ben Evans, takes a close look at the demand for Cambodian heritage and provides an overview of the history of its looting and protection. 

In a brief interview, Helena Arose, Angela Chiu, and Ben Evans answer questions about the history of looting of Cambodian antiquities, the impact of cultural racketeering on the nation, and what lies ahead.

Second Artifact Located from AC’s Ten Most Wanted Antiquities List

The Art Newspaper Names Owner and Location of the Kwer’ata Re’esu Icon

The Antiquities Coalition (AC) welcomes new information published by The Art Newspaper identifying the location of the Kwer’ata Re’esu Icon, a 500-year-old icon on our Ten Most Wanted list. This is the second artifact from the list, which serves as an illustrated guide of looted, stolen, or missing cultural treasures from around the world, to be found.

On September 25, following an investigation that spanned decades, The Art Newspaper released the owner’s name and the first full-color photos of the artifact. The icon is located in Portugal, and the owner was reported to be Isabel Reis Santos, heir to the Portuguese art historian Luiz Reis Santos. 

The Kwer’ata Re’esu icon was looted from Ethiopia in 1868 by Richard Holmes, an agent of the British Museum sent to bring back manuscripts and antiquities. When Holmes returned to the museum, he failed to turn over the relic, and it was ultimately sold at Christie’s in 1917 following Holmes’ death in 1911. 

Now that the icon has been located, the AC joins the calls for its return to Ethiopia, following the repatriation of other treasures looted from Maqdala by the British last month. However, the restitution of this artifact is not possible without the support of the Portuguese government. In 2002, the Portuguese Ministry of Culture issued an order forbidding the export of the painting without explicit authorization, and the order will need to be lifted to facilitate a prompt return. 

The AC credits The Art Newspaper for their investigation and willingness to share these new insights and information with the public, along with all those who have contributed to efforts to track down the revered icon. Read their full article and see the colored pictures of Kwer’ata Re’esu here

To learn more about Kwer’ata Re’esu and other antiquities that have been looted in times of crisis and conflict, explore the Antiquities Coalition’s Ten Most Wanted list here.

AC’s Chairman and Founder Appointed to the Advisory Board for the World Archaeology Summit

The Royal Commission for AlUla has named Deborah Lehr, the Chairman and Founder of the Antiquities Coalition, to the founding Advisory Board for the World Archaeology Summit. Lehr launched the Antiquities Coalition in 2014 to partner with governments, NGOs and other like minded organizations across the world to fight against antiquities trafficking and its use by bad actors to fund terrorism and organized crime. 

The World Archaeology Summit, launched in 2023, features an interdisciplinary program and diverse participants, bringing together top minds to advance archaeology and cultural heritage management, among others. By creating this environment, the summit aims to facilitate collaboration and innovation, as well as explore how these different sectors can support and enhance one another to address challenges and develop opportunities. 

During the inaugural summit, Lehr joined global experts on a panel entitled “Cross-Pollination: How Can Archaeology Support Interdisciplinary Innovation.” Speakers discussed strategies for non-archaeologists to help support the science of archaeology and address problems in the field, such as the looting and trafficking of ancient art and artifacts. AC Advisor Ambassador Yasser Elnagger and legal consultant Liz Fraccaro also participated as speakers. 

The Antiquities Coalition commends the Royal Commission for AlUla for hosting the World Archaeology Summit and for efforts to bring together archaeologists and other experts to develop heritage-based solutions to contemporary problems.