Field Archaeologists as Eyewitnesses to Site Looting

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Field Archaeologists as Eyewitnesses to Site Looting

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Blythe Allison Bowman Balestrieri

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In a recent worldwide study on the nature, scope, and frequency of archaeological site looting, the vast majority of field archaeologists reported having had multiple encounters with archaeological site looters both on- and off-site. Despite the criminalization of looting in most countries’ domestic statutory schemes, nearly half of surveyed field archaeologists do not report looting activity to external law enforcement or archaeological authorities when they encounter it. The rationales for their actions—or inactions—are examined within a criminological framework, and field archaeologists’ perspectives on looters as “criminals” and “victims” are explored. The paper concludes with a consideration that the criminalization of looting creates an emergent duty to report among archaeologists, and how they choose to address site looting changes their role in and relationship to the trade in illicitly obtained antiquities.


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