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Buyer Beware: Checklist for the Travel Souvenir Shopper

July 27, 2016

By: Katie A. Paul and Tess Davis

_The Russian market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia 2 - Tess Davis
Photo Credit: Tess Davis

We all love to travel and buying souvenirs can be the best part of a trip—but many travelers are unaware of the risks associated with purchasing ancient artifacts. Areas in crisis are at great risk of being subject to cultural racketeering – the looting and trafficking of antiquities by organized criminal groups for profit. The U.S. State Department revealed clear evidence in 2015 that terror groups like Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL) are engaging in cultural racketeering to fund their efforts.

The antiquities that are looted from regions like South America, the Middle East and Europe do not always end up on the high end art market, they can also be peddled to unsuspecting travelers and tourists looking to bring a piece of their trip home. The United States alone accounts for nearly half of the global art market at 43 percent, this market includes antiquities. Traffickers and dealers around the world are well aware of the American taste for art and artifacts, and as such travelers from the U.S. and other western countries can be the target of dealers selling locally looted materials. Tourists who don’t know what warning signs to look for when considering artifacts as a purchase are at particular risk.

The Antiquities Coalition partnered with InStyle to help #CombatLooting by raising awareness about the black market in illicit antiquities. The AC has created a handy infographic checklist to help even novice travelers steer clear of stolen relics.

Checklist infographic