Treasures Looted in War

Works of art and cultural heritage sites are common casualties in war. In many cases, the sale of plundered treasures has helped finance ongoing conflict. In this episode, two experts examine the history of conflict-driven looting. Along the way, they trace the opaque, unregulated international art market that allows irreplaceable treasures to travel from strife-torn regions to the catalogues of prestigious auction houses.

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting

Asher Ross - Supervising Producer

Markus Zakaria - Audio Producer and Sound Designer

Rafaela Siewert - Associate Podcast Producer

Episode Guests
  • Amr Al Azm
    Professor of History and Anthropology, Shawnee State University
  • Tess Davis
    Executive Director, Antiquities Coalition

Show Notes

The looting of art and cultural artifacts is as old as war itself—but these crimes have taken on new dimensions in the modern era. Regions destabilized by conflict are easy targets for looters and traffickers, and the profits are often directed toward sustaining conflict. Once established, trafficking networks can continue to rob a country of its cultural heritage long after war has ended. In this episode, two experts examine the recent history of conflict-driven looting, and the efforts underway to root it out.


Read More


Here Are the Ancient Sites ISIS Has Damaged and Destroyed,” National Geographic


Congressional probe: Russian oligarchs using art to evade sanctions,” Politico


How Cambodia’s temples fell to looters,” Deutsche Welle


Dutch museums take initiative to repatriate colonial-era artifacts,” The Art Newspaper


Hobby Lobby’s Illegal Antiquities Shed Light on a Lost, Looted Ancient City in Iraq,” NPR


Illegal trade in antiquities: a scourge that has gone on for millennia too long,” The Conversation


Targeting Cultural Sites in War Is Illegal. It’s Also Barbaric.,” New York Times


7 Cultural Sites Damaged or Destroyed by War,” HISTORY


Martha Nierenberg, Holocaust survivor who sought to reclaim looted family art collection, dies at 96,” Washington Post


Watch or Listen 


Cultural Heritage in Armed Conflict: The 1954 Hague Convention and its two (1954 and 1999) Protocols,” UNESCO


The Scourge of Looting: Trafficking Antiquities, from Temple to Museum,” Boston University


The Monuments Men and preserving art during war,” Art Matters


Looted art in the Third Reich,” Deutsche Welle


Where Are The Thousands of Nazi-Looted Musical Instruments?,” Morning Edition


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