Antiquity on Sale

How ILLICID investigates illicit trafficking in cultural property in Germany

Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Vessel with clay tablets as records of offerings at the Ashur Temple (1244 BCE - 1207 BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Who? What?

The illicit trafficking in cultural property is a threat to cultural heritage – and yet it has not been studied. 

Cylinder seal with depiction of a ziggurat (13th century BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

We have no robust figures on the extent of the trade, the supply of objects, the players, networks, and channels of communication.

Nor do we know what methods we should use to obtain this information.

ILLICID covers research into the hidden or “dark” areas of the illicit trafficking in cultural property. The aim is to determine which research methods are at all feasible and effective in this specific area of trade.

Legal Document with Cover (1813 BCE - 1793 BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

ILLICID is the only project in the world so far with an interdisciplinary approach to creating a scientific basis for tackling illicit trafficking in cultural property. It involves sociologists, IT specialists, and experts on antiquities working in close co-operation with state investigators and international organizations.

By the end of the project, we should have a better idea of how the trafficking in archaeological cultural property from the Eastern Mediterranean region is set up in Germany. We will also have a much better understanding of what legislators, authorities, and institutions need to do in order to suppress illicit trafficking in cultural property effectively.

Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert in an interview (2016/2016)Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

In 2016, a new cultural property protection law was passed in Germany. This is to make the cross-border trafficking in arts and cultural property be regulated more strictly. It aims to prevent the import of stolen works of art as well as the export of national cultural property from Germany. In the future, archaeological works of art from abroad can only be traded with a certificate from the country of origin. Until now, works of art could not be introduced unless they were on a corresponding list of the country of origin.

Six questions to Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert, Director of the Museum of the Ancient Near East until 2018 and head of the research project ILLICID.

Necklace of semi-precious stones (1st Half 1st millennium BC) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Illicit trafficking in cultural property – how does it work?

ILLICID | Questions to Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert | Part1Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Miniature Vessel (6th century BC; Neo-Babylonian) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

When is an object considered illegal?

ILLICID | Questions to Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert | Part2Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Male bottle holder (6./5. Century BC) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

What kind of objects are in the market?

ILLICID | Questions to Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert | Part3Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Model of an uniaxial car (2500-2000 BC) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

What is the approach of the researchers?

ILLICID | Questions to Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert | Part4Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Memorandum with inscription of Enannatum of Lagash (Mid third millennium BC) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

How can the objects be identified?

ILLICID | Questions to Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert | Part5Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Animal figurine (bull-calf) (2800 BCE - 2700 BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

How is cultural heritage protection dealt with in the museum?

ILLICID | Questions to Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert | Part6Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Orthostates with the Representation of a Bull Hunt (883-859 BC; Neo-Assyrian; Ashurnasirpal II.) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

According to several international organisations, the illicit trafficking in cultural property is a substantial source of revenue for organized crime. Germany is currently both an important market and transit state for those involved. On the basis of reliable trade-related figures ILLICID can develop effective crime-fighting strategies.

ILLICID is a joint collaboration between the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz together with the Fraunhofer-Institut für Sichere Informationstechnologie and the GESIS – Leibniz-Institut für Sozialwissenschaften. It is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Credits: Story

Text: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz

Concept / Editing / Video: Astrid Alexander

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz

www.smb.museum

Pergamonmuseum

Credits: All media
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