Sacred art encompasses some of the richest artistic achievements of humanity. It occupies a stabilising place within communities, contributing significantly to collective and individual identity and security. Because of the beauty and significance of sacred art, there exists a demand for it on the private international market. To meet this demand, sacred art is stolen, trafficked, and sold illicitly. This destroys the context of the sacred art, challenges the integrity and significance of sacred heritage sites, and introduces a profound sense of insecurity to groups who have experienced this devastating loss. Recording might prevent these thefts, recovery might mitigate the loss, but traditional security measures are unavailable or unsuitable for controlling the situation.
The scale of global sacred art theft is unknown. The scale of the international market for sacred art is unknown. The forces of globalisation, neoliberalism, and developmental inequality fuel this illicit trade, but their specific influence is unknown. Theft vulnerability factors for sacred art and sacred heritage sites are unknown. The connections between the trafficking of sacred art and the trafficking of other illicit commodities are unknown. The effectiveness of existing regulation to prevent the movement and sale of illicit sacred art is unknown.
This website represents a first step in documenting this phenomenon. By collecting information about cases of sacred art theft, we hope to take tentative steps towards studying it, understanding it, and solving it.