Buyer Beware: US Market for Ancient Asian Art Still the Wild, Wild East | The Diplomat

No Comments

A piece by Tess Davis of the Antiquities Coalition on the lessons we can learn from the looting situation in Cambodia and how it applies to world’s trouble spots today.


Cambodia’s story is a warning for the art world, but also for the international community. Over the past century, we’ve watched brutal regimes, extremists, and organized criminals all traffic in heritage to fund their activities. We’ve seen that trafficking is not just a side effect of armed conflict; it is a driver of violence. And we’ve learned that the illicit trade in heritage can far outlive the conflicts that created them, and that peace can, counterintuitively, open up new markets and buyers for antiquities.

Source: Buyer Beware: US Market for Ancient Asian Art Still the Wild, Wild East | The Diplomat

The legacy of the Ban Chiang discovery

No Comments
Burials at Ban Chiang. Source: The Isaan Record 20160420

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the Ban Chiang culture in Thailand’s Udon Thani province. This article from the Isaan Record features and interview with Dr Joyce White and her involvement with the site.

Burials at Ban Chiang. Source: The Isaan Record 20160420

Burials at Ban Chiang. Source: The Isaan Record 20160420

The legacy of Ban Chiang: Archaeologist Joyce White talks about Thailand’s most famous archaeological site
The Isaan Record, 20 April 2016

Fifty years ago in August, in the village of Ban Chiang near Udon Thani, a visiting American student named Stephen Young tripped over an exposed tree root and fell atop the rim of a clay pot partly buried in the village path. His tumble set into motion two joint Thai-American archaeological expeditions to Ban Chiang in the 1970s that exposed the extent of prehistoric burial sites beneath the village, sites filled with thousands of pieces of pottery and metalwork buried as grave goods by Neolithic and Bronze Age peoples at different times between 4200 and 1800 years ago. The Ban Chiang finds revealed unexpected technological and artistic development among the peoples of the region and challenged prevailing ideas about the prehistory of Southeast Asia.

American archaeologist Dr. Joyce White is the Director of the Ban Chiang project at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, USA, where she has studied the finds from Ban Chiang since 1976. She is an expert witness for the US Department of Justice in an ongoing antiquities trafficking case that in 2014 resulted in the return of many smuggled Ban Chiang items to Thailand.

Full story here.

Cambodian military official caught smuggling statues out of the country

No Comments
Statues confiscated at the Thai-Cambodian border. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150427

A Cambodian official was caught smuggling three statues out of the country when he was checked by the customs officials at the Thai border.

Statues confiscated at the Thai-Cambodian border. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150427

Statues confiscated at the Thai-Cambodian border. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150427

Statues seized at border
Phnom Penh Post, 27 April 2015

Army Officer Smuggling Statues Into Thailand Caught at Border
Cambodia Daily, 27 April 2015

A military official was arrested in Thailand on Saturday after smuggling three statues across the border from Banteay Meanchey province in his car, officials said Sunday.

Prak Sa, chief of the Boeung Trakuon border checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey’s O’Chrou district, said that Soeun Oeun, 49—an intelligence officer from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ Region 5 in Battambang province—was arrested at about 5 p.m., just after passing through screening on the Cambodian side of the checkpoint.

“We were careless with checking his car, in which he had hidden three ancient statues, but he was arrested by Thai border police,” Mr. Sa said. He said Mr. Oeun regularly went through the checkpoint in O’Beichoan commune to purchase food or gasoline in Thailand.

“The suspect goes back and forth every day,” he said, adding that Cambodian border police had never had reason to suspect nefarious activity.

Full story here.

The looting of antiquities in Southeast Asia

No Comments

Last week Unesco organised a symposium on the illicit trafficking of antiquities (which I will write a little bit more about in a later post), here is a news writeup on it, although it doesn’t actually mention the symposium itself, it quotes a number of speakers there.

SE Asian artefacts under threat from looters: UN
Channel NewsAsia, 21 November 2014
Read More

Ban Chiang artefacts return to Thailand

No Comments
Bang Chiang Pots returned to Thailand. Source: Bangkok Post 20140902

Over 500 pieces of ceramics, believed to be looted from the Ban Chiang archaeological site in Thailand have been returned to by the Bowers Museum in California.

Bang Chiang Pots returned to Thailand. Source: Bangkok Post 20140902

Bang Chiang Pots returned to Thailand. Source: Bangkok Post 20140902

‘Ban Chiang’ artefacts arrive from US
Bangkok Post, 02 September 2014

Thailand reclaims smuggled artefacts from California museum
The Hindu, 02 September 2014
Read More

Tracking how antiquities get stolen and sold on the black market

No Comments
Evidence of looting in Angkor. Source: The Cambodia Daily 20140618

A new study published in the British Journal of Criminology reveals the inner workings of a statue trafficking network in Cambodia and Thailand and sheds light on how the particular form of organised crime works.

Evidence of looting in Angkor. Source: The Cambodia Daily 20140618

Evidence of looting in Angkor. Source: The Cambodia Daily 20140618

Temple Looting in Cambodia: Anatomy of a Statue Trafficking Network
Simon Mackenzie and Tess Davis
British Journal of Criminology 2014, doi: 10.1093/bjc/azu038

New Evidence Ties Illegal Antiquities Trade to Terrorism, Violent Crime
National Geographic News, 13 June 2014

Study Details Sophisticated Temple-Looting Ring
Cambodia Daily, 18 June 2014
Read More

French couple arrested for smuggling artifacts out of Cambodia

3 Comments

Thai authorities have arrested a French couple at a Cambodian border checkpoint for possessing what looks to be very old statues. The couple say that they were souvenirs bought at a market, and the artifacts are now at the Fine Arts Department for examination.

Couple arrested at Cambodian border with ancient relics
The Nation, 20 March 2012
Read More

Gold artefacts from Indonesian museum stolen

1 Comment

A case where 80 gold artefacts were stolen from a museum in Yogyakarta have been referred to Interpol, as it is believed that the artefacts have been smuggled out of the country and sold.

Gold artefacts stolen; Interpol assistance requested
Jakarta Post, 21 January 2011

Pencurian Koleksi Emas Sonobudoyo Gelap
Kompas.com, 11 January 2011
(In Bahasa Indonesia)
Read More