The Illicit Antiquities Research Centre- 2006 Outstanding Public Service Award

Award Citation:

The Archaeological Institute of America is proud to present the 2006 Award for Outstanding Public Service to the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre.  The Illicit Antiquities Research Centre (IARC) was founded in May 1996 in response to increasing concern about both the destruction of archaeological sites and ancient monuments throughout the world and the resulting loss of historical knowledge. Working under the auspices of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge, the Centre raises awareness about the problem of looting and its connection to the illicit antiquities trade through public education and media campaigns.  Emphasizing that the true value of an artifact is irreparably diminished by the loss of cultural information caused by its unrecorded divorce from context, the IARC has attempted to create a climate of opinion that will discourage the collection of illicit antiquities. IARC has a small but extremely dedicated staff including Colin Renfrew, Neil Brodie, Chris Scarre, Augusta McMahon, Peter Watson and Jenny Doole.                                                                       

IARC has been active in supporting national legislation and international agreements for the protection of cultural heritage. The recent ratification by the United Kingdom of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property reflects a growing awareness among British politicians, the museum and dealer communities, and the general public about the need to safeguard the world’s archaeological patrimony. IARC has contributed in no small way to this change in perception regarding the preservation of the past. IARC’s thorough research is frequently cited by journalists.

IARC also organizes conferences that bring together archaeologists, government and law-enforcement officials, and museum representatives from around the world to exchange information about illicit trade and potential solutions to the problems.  One such gathering in 1999 resulted in the establishment of the International Standing Committee on the Traffic in Illicit Antiquities and the passing of the "Cambridge Resolution," in which a group of international experts agreed to join forces to combat the illicit trade and raise public awareness about it.

In 2000 IARC published Stealing History: the Illicit Trade in Cultural Material — a report commissioned by the Museums Association and ICOM-UK — and in 2001, the highly influential Trade in Illicit Antiquities: the Destruction of the World's Archaeological Heritage. Both these books have become standard references in the field, used by students, archaeological professionals, the media, and national and international policy makers. In addition, IARC maintains an active and frequently visited website ( and publishes a regular newsletter, Culture Without Context (

In its mission and activities IARC is unique in the world and has had a major impact in its ten years of existence. In recognition of its record of notable achievement, the Archaeological Institute of America presents the Outstanding Public Service Award for the year 2006 to the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre. 

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