Think Tank Tackles “Out-of-Control” Internet Antiquities Market

In a recent case brought by the U.S. government, American chain store Hobby Lobby agreed to forfeit $3 million dollars and 5000 antiquities, which it had illegally smuggled into the United States from Iraq. Now reports are also surfacing that Hobby Lobby used eBay to help build its suspect collection of artifacts—which will form the basis of the “Museum of the Bible” set to open in Washington later this year. In light of this growing scandal, the Antiquities Coalition Think Tank is tackling the online marketplace in ancient art.

In its latest policy brief, Dr. Neil Brodie examines how best to protect businesses and consumers from the skyrocketing internet market, which he warns “presents a clear and present danger to the survival of the world’s cultural heritage.” Moreover, he cautions that such e-commerce is putting both companies and good faith purchasers at risk of unknowingly facilitating criminal activity, or even funding violent extremist organizations like Daesh (ISIS). Brodie proposes a number of practical solutions aimed at raising consumer awareness and introducing workable regulation, which would encourage the emergence of a legitimate trade, while ridding the internet of its scourge of trafficked and faked antiquities.

Dr. Neil Brodie is presently Senior Research Fellow on the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa project at the University of Oxford’s School of Archaeology, and a member of the Trafficking Culture project. His policy brief follows others by attorney Ricardo St. Hilaire and professor Lawrence Rothfield. The Antiquities Coalition launched its Think Tank in November 2016 to explore innovative solutions to pressing challenges in cultural heritage, working with distinguished specialists from the public and private sectors.

You can find Dr. Brodie’s executive summary and link to the complete policy brief PDF here.