Story Maps of Cultural Racketeering

The Long Journey Home: Story Maps of Cultural Racketeering

Ever wonder how invaluable looted artifacts travel unimpeded across international borders? A new online mapping project by the Antiquities Coalition allows you to follow the money, the criminals and the art.

These fully immersive timelines combine expert accounts, striking visuals, court records and personalized details. And for the first time Esri software—the most powerful mapping and spatial data technology available—is being used to narrate these tales of cultural racketeering all with the simple scroll of a mouse.

Like a Bull in an Art Museum

Looted during the Lebanese Civil War, the Sidon Bull’s Head mysteriously found itself at the Met in New York. Without warning, sirens and flashing lights surround the museum. What happens? Follow the story map to find out.

The Sidon Bull’s head a 2300-year-old sculpture was looted during Lebanon’s civil war of the 1980s and mysteriously ended up at New York’s renowned Metropolitan Museum. After decades on the black market passing from a Swiss tax-haven to a hedge fund billionaire what happened to the Sidon Bull’s head? Follow the Antiquities Coalition’s first story map to find out.

To explore the full story map, click here.

The Pilfered Persian

After surviving Alexander the Great’s conquest in place, a limestone relief of a Persian soldier vanished into the criminal underworld during a 1930s excavation. Then, decades later, the fragment that once guarded proud Persepolis crashed a high-end art fair in a tangle of disrepute. What happened to the regal piece? From suspect dealers to a secret stash and second robbery, discover the journey with the new Antiquities Coalition story map.

To explore the full story map, click here.

Lost Rights: An Exploration of the Misadventures of a Stolen American Relic

North Carolina’s original copy of the Bill of Rights—one of just eleven surviving original renditions of the 10 amendments to the Constitution submitted to the 13 states in 1789—disappeared from the North Carolina State Capitol in 1865, when a Union soldier claimed it as a spoil of war. From there, it traveled across the country for over a century, tucking into private offices and quietly shifting through the hands of multiple antiquities dealers.

Follow its journey, as reported by David Howard, in the Antiquities Coalition’s latest story map release.

To explore the full story map, click here.

The 1970 UNESCO Convention: Looking to the Past – and the Future

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the key international law to police the art and antiquities trade—the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.  Over the last half-century, this ground-breaking treaty has brought the world together in a shared mission to safeguard our cultural heritage from tomb raiders and art smugglers, as well as return looted and stolen objects to their rightful owners. But today cultural heritage faces very different challenges—and opportunities—than in 1970.

The Antiquities Coalition developed this interactive resource to explore the significant changes that have taken place over the last fifty years. It also poses an important question: as we celebrate this milestone, how can we also ensure that international law continues to preserve our history for future generations?

To explore the full story map, click here.

The Missing Inscription: The Ongoing Journey of a Lost Yemeni Antiquity

Yemen’s years of crisis and civil war have made the country’s rich archaeological sites and museums dangerously vulnerable to criminals. Sometime between 2009 and 2011, thieves ripped an alabaster inscription from the floor of Awan Temple, also known as the “Sanctuary of the Queen of Sheba.” The piece then disappeared into the black market, traveling through hidden channels, before surfacing at a European auction house. There, it was sold to an unknown buyer, and vanished from the public eye once more.

But where is the inscription now? Still missing, this artifact is just one example of many looted antiquities from Yemen that have yet to make the long journey home. Follow its journey in the Antiquities Coalition’s latest immersive story map release.

To explore the full story map, click here.

Who Owns the Guennol Stargazer? How a Turkish Work of Art from the 3rd Millennium BC Ended up in the Southern District of New York

In 2017, Christie’s moved to sell the Guennol Stargazer. According to the auction house, this figure—presumably dating back to the Chalcolithic period (between 3000 and 2200 BC)—is one of around 15 nearly complete female idols of Kiliya type remaining in existence.

The Guennol Stargazer was purchased for $12.7 million—but not before the government of Turkey filed a formal complaint with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Experts believe that in the early 1960’s, the figure was excavated and then smuggled out of Turkey in violation of Turkey’s 1909 patrimony law.

Who, then, owns the Guennol Stargazer? The Antiquities Coalition delves into this question in its latest story map.

To explore the full story map, click here.

The Koh Ker Ganesha: Lost and Found?

The Koh Ker Ganesha, a 1000-year-old Cambodian masterpiece, vanished during the kingdom’s decades of bloody civil war. Has this long lost cultural treasure now been found?

This Ganesha was one of the “Ten Most Wanted Antiquities” featured in the Antiquities Coalition’s 2020 awareness campaign to locate and recover some of the world’s most significant looted, stolen, and missing artifacts.

We spoke to Dr. Piphal Heng about this statue, the fate it suffered during the Cambodian Civil War, and why it should be returned to its rightful home. Dr. Heng is a Cambodian archaeologist who has been working in the field for nearly 20 years. He is currently the Interim Associate Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies and a member of the affiliate faculty at the Department of Anthropology at University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Scroll through our interactive resource to learn the Ganesha’s story—which may finally have a happy ending.

To explore the full story map, click here.