This interactive timeline provides a detailed history of legal protections for cultural heritage in the Middle East and North Africa, highlighting how the region’s governments have long sought to safeguard their past for future generations, and where those protections stand today.
Note: This timeline does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice, nor is it a substitute for legal research. It is also a work in progress. It is important to note that in the region, ownership and export laws for cultural property predated those included thus far, for example in territory controlled by the Ottoman Empire. While most texts were pulled from the UNESCO Database, this reference includes both official and unofficial translations, so users should use care.
This interactive timeline provides a detailed history of the United States’ cultural bilateral agreements and emergency actions, highlighting the lengthy processes that these nations go through to protect their heritage, and demonstrating how the agreements got to where they stand today.
This interactive timeline chronicles the successes of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations in cleaning up the New York art market, one of the largest unregulated markets in the world, by sending a strong signal that collectors, auction houses, and museums will be held accountable for engaging in cultural racketeering.
In 2017, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. launched a counter antiquities trafficking unit, the first of its kind in the United States. The unit is headed by Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos, a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, who led the U.S. government’s efforts to recover priceless antiquities stolen from the Iraqi National Museum in 2003. Other members of this elite unit include lawyers, as well as experts in antiquities trafficking—all dedicated to stopping the trade of illicit artifacts in New York today. They partner closely with leading Special Agents from HSI, the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
The sheer number and high-dollar value of art and antiquities seized by the unit to date demonstrates that New York City remains a hub for the illicit trade in not only the United States, but also the world at large. Since its creation, the team has successfully seized and repatriated millions of dollars worth of artifacts to their countries of origin.
This interactive timeline illustrates the ongoing operations of the Manhattan DA’s office and their continued successes in countering demand for illicit antiquities. It compiles information gathered from media reports, press releases, and court documents. It shows the seizures of dozens of antiquities, with descriptions of their value and history. The timeline notes from whom and where the antiquities were seized, and where they have been repatriated, providing key sources for further reading.
We hope that other major markets in the United States will follow New York’s leadership by setting up similar task forces to tackle cultural racketeering, given its documented links to terrorism, transnational organized crime, and money laundering.