Ten Most Wanted Antiquities

 

The Ten Most Wanted Antiquities list is an illustrated guide to some of the most significant looted, stolen, and missing artifacts from around the world. It shines a spotlight on the global crisis of cultural racketeering and enlists the public in finding and recovering these examples of priceless patrimony. We need your help to return these pieces to their rightful owners.

The looting and trafficking of cultural heritage remains a pressing international issue. Objects on the Ten Most Wanted Antiquities list exemplify a tragic pattern of crimes against culture: thieves steal a work from its home—often capitalizing on the chaos of war, unrest, or other crisis—and leave a wound that persists for decades or even centuries. Cultural racketeers can also use proceeds from the sale of such stolen goods to fund terror and war. Too often, pieces are lost to the black market forever, a fate that we hope will not befall the ten pieces featured here.

This update follows the awareness campaign’s first success, the recovery and return of a monumental 10th Century sculpture of the elephant-headed god Ganesha. It features infamous cases of cultural racketeering, selected in consultation with leading experts, focusing on objects that are at least two hundred and fifty years old, which could be found in an archaeological context. We ask that anyone with relevant information on their whereabouts report it to the authorities using the tip links in the comments.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation

INTERPOL

Homeland Security Investigations

Has the Koh Ker Ganesha been 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?

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. 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.

Where is the Yemeni alabaster stone inscription?

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. You can follow its journey with the Antiquities Coalition’s immersive Story Map here.