Story Maps

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.

Oligarchs, Offshores, and the Olympics

After Vladimir Putin directed the Russian military to invade Ukraine in 2014, the United States government imposed heavy sanctions on Russia, explicitly targeting his inner circle. How, then, did two members of that circle—Russian construction and energy magnates Arkady and Boris Rotenberg—allegedly manage to use the $28.3 billion U.S. art market to launder no less than $18 million right under the U.S. government’s nose?

We at the Antiquities Coalition explore the Rotenberg brothers’ modus operandi in our new story map release.

To explore the full story map, click here.

Top Ten Most Wanted Antiquities

Countless antiquities have been looted or stolen over the course of history. Every last one of them represents an incalculable loss to cultural heritage—but, inevitably, some of these losses are more infamous than others. The Antiquities Coalition has chronicled some of the most egregious cases of cultural artifacts vanishing without a trace. For some of these antiquities, it has been less than 15 years since their disappearance—and for others, more than 150—but, with your help, we hope to one day return all of them to their rightful homes.

Check out the Antiquities Coalition’s new story map release to learn what to remain on the lookout for.

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 Antiquities Coalition at 5: Marking a Major Milestone, While Looking Towards the Future

To protect our shared heritage and global security, the Antiquities Coalition is leading the global campaign against cultural racketeering, the illicit trade in ancient art and artifacts. We champion better law and policy, foster diplomatic cooperation, and advance proven solutions with governments, law enforcement, and the legitimate market. We are working towards a future when the past is preserved for the next generation, not looted, smuggled, and sold to finance crime, conflict, and terror.

With this interactive Story Map, we document our organization’s first five years, chronicling our story, our action-based solutions, and, most importantly, our results. Scroll through to trace our impact from our beginnings in 2014 to our recent initiatives, and view some of our signature infographics, videos, and reports.

To explore the full story map, click here.

Italy & the Vatican: The History of Cultural Patrimony Law on the Italic Peninsula from 900s-Present

This Story Map explores the succession of Italic powers, from the 8th century to the present, throughout which the Antiquities Coalition commemorates centuries of cultural heritage preservation in Italy. In it, we also celebrate repeated instances of compromise in times of conflict for the sake of historical preservation and detail the condition of Italian cultural patrimony laws today.

Italy’s dedication to cultural heritage preservation via strong legislation and collaborative problem-solving continues to this day. The Italian Carabinieri’s Art Squad is one of the world’s leading antiquities protection units globally. In 2021, Italy utilized its Presidency of the G20 Summit to add culture to the agenda, elevating issues of illicit art and antiquities trade to the global economic stage.

To explore the full Story Map, click here.