This report was executed under supervision of the Dutch Cultural Heritage Inspectorate (The Hague, The Netherlands). The main purpose of this research is to get a clear insight into the types and scales of the trade in archaeological objects via Dutch websites. Unlike the ‘normal’ trade in art and archaeology, there is few or no control of the digital trade in archaeological objects.
This problem has also been recognized internationally. In 2007, The International Council of Museums (ICOM), UNESCO and INTERPOL have expressed their worries about the (licit and illicit) trade in archaeological objects on the Internet. These organizations managed to put the sale of cultural property on the Internet on the agenda. According to these organizations, certain investigations need to be handed out as it appears that the internet has become a grand part in the sale of cultural property. On a national level, the Cultural Heritage Inspectorate required to know more about the possible objects that might be traded online. They commissioned the execution of several studies. The most recent investigation to the Dutch online art trade was done in 2010. This report, ‘Cultural property on the Internet: a study into the online illegal trade, was a continuation of an elaborate study to the Dutch art sector (2007), in which one paragraph was dedicated to the online art trade. The investigators of this research had already marked the online trade as a growing problem. The report of 2010 discussed the problems and possible threats when dealing with the online selling and purchasing of archaeological objects. In this report, the four main Dutch advertising and auction websites were examined. Still, no other websites than belonging to this category were surveyed, so little is known about the online trade via other channels.
This particular investigation can be seen as an extension to the knowledge that already exists on the subject, and that was obtained via these previous investigations. This report will provide more insight and in-depth information into the trade of archaeological objects online, and will mainly focus on the private sector; as amateur archaeologists and metal detectorists and their private websites.
The yielded results have been divided into several categories, which present various kinds of websites that appear to offer archaeological objects and that may pose a possible threat. Based on all the information, a conclusion of the nature and size and the scale of threats have been established.