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Patrimony Laws: A History of Preservation

August 29, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC (August 29, 2019) — Today, the Antiquities Coalition launched a new interactive timeline to raise awareness of legal protections for cultural property throughout the Arab League. 

This unique tool, “Patrimony Laws: A History of Preservation,” chronicles over a century of domestic legislation in the Middle East and North Africa. It is intended to serve as a resource to all relevant stakeholders — from archaeologists, to art market actors, to those in law enforcement or government — so that they may better navigate the complexities of the antiquities trade. As it illustrates, the region’s governments have long sought to safeguard their rich cultural heritage from tomb raiders and art smugglers, a struggle that continues to this day due to the growing black market for ancient treasures. 

This timeline currently includes 55 laws from 19 jurisdictions and counting, with the earliest included thus far dating to 1891 in Egypt, and the most recent to 2018 in Palestine. Initially, it will focus on legal provisions controlling the ownership and export of antiquities, given their importance to the fight against cultural racketeering. With a simple scroll of the mouse, users can explore how these protections changed over the decades, and even centuries. When available, relevant excerpts are provided in English translation, as well as links to the full texts at the UNESCO Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws.

The countries of the Arab League are the custodian of a priceless heritage, home to some of the world’s earliest civilizations and cities, the invention of writing and government, and the first recorded laws. This timeline illustrates how they have used the law to ensure their archaeological sites and antiquities are passed down to the next generation. We look forward to expanding this content over time to more legislation from more countries and encourage readers to help us improve it by submitting any missing information.

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.


About the Antiquities Coalition 

The Antiquities Coalition unites a diverse group of experts in the fight against cultural racketeering: the illicit trade in antiquities by organized criminals and terrorist organizations. This plunder for profit funds crime and conflict around the world—erasing our past and threatening our future. The Coalition’s innovative and practical solutions tackle crimes against heritage head on, empowering communities and countries in crisis. Learn more at Follow us on Twitter @CombatLooting.

Media Contact

Albert Fujii,