Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
Art and artifacts, ancient or modern, have value as part of the historical record of human achievement. They also elicit emotion on the part of the beholder by virtue of aesthetic quality, personal associations, and/or historical context. And, of course, they have monetary value as objects that can be bought and sold. These factors are brought together when a criminal pursues an object of art or antiquity for his or her own gain. In this lecture I will describe how US federal law intersects with the pursuit art through theft, smuggling, fraud and forgery. The case studies, drawn from my experience in the State Department and the FBI, illustrate both the allure of the objects and the tactics used to achieve the separation of the object from the legitimate owner (or money from the buyer who believes the copy is an original). Stolen antiquities are a special concern because of the difficulty in tracking something looted out of the ground without written or photographic record in the country of origin. Public awareness, enforcement of existing laws and regulations, vigilance at the borders, and luck play a role in preventing the entry and sale of stolen artifacts in the US. Indeed, awareness of the tactics used by criminals to steal or defraud is a key to avoiding becoming a victim. I will conclude the talk with some recommendations for responsible collecting and protecting collections.