Inside the Illegal Trade in West Africa's Cultural Heritage

Archaeologists and provenance researchers argue, that looted artifacts continue to circulate on antiquities markets with impunity. In their view, collectors and dealers are not doing enough due diligence on the objects they sell. The counter-argument by western-based professional associations of art dealers, is that ever-increasing regulations throttle their business. Meanwhile, the informal online trade in antiquities continues, with much of it reportedly, either looted or fake. The illegal trade in African cultural heritage continues to cause untold damage to archaeological sites and monuments. Mali is a standout case study of how this illicit business is draining the continent of its collective history. Regional middlemen for antiquities dealers run and finance large, organized teams of looters to excavate sites, writes Julia Stanyard for the Institute for Security Studies.

Seated figure, Djenné peoples

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