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Session Dates

Session 1: Tuesday January 11th, 19.00 – 20.30 CET
Session 2: Tuesday January 18th, 19.00 – 20.30 CET
Session 3: Tuesday January 25th, 19.00 – 20.30 CET
Session 4: Tuesday February 1st, 19.00 – 20.30 CET

Zoom links will be sent out to all registered participants two days before each session. 

Course Description

Research has mainly focused on describing the final receivers of the illicitly obtained antiquities and described how museums, dealers, and collectors perpetuate this form of crime. However, in order to be able to assess the phenomenon of looting properly, it is important to know the role of the looters as the starting point of the illicit antiquities trade. This six-hour, low participant-to-instructor ratio, eCourse will focus on this missing link based on groundbreaking research by prof Balcells into the operation and network of antiquities looters.

There is no more than tangential information on the role of the looters in the chain, beyond understanding that they are the ones finding the goods. This pattern is repeated in other crimes, such as drug trafficking, where supplying drugs is labeled as “upper-level drug trafficking .

Recent research in this field can bring important results that help implement criminal policies: for example, professor Balcells’ research on Italian looters, (drawing on a multidisciplinary body of literature on Italian archaeological looting and interviews with looters, law enforcement officials, archeologists, prosecutors, journalists, and criminologists) demonstrates that although archaeological looting is a crime that is organised, it is not a problem of organised crime. In fact, its relationship to traditional Italian criminal organisations seems sporadic and has proven to be anecdotal in many cases. Looting, an eminently group activity, is mostly perpetrated in teams, who perfectly fit the definition, albeit simply, of organisations. As such, looters can learn as a whole group from the interactions among their members and adapt to the actions of law enforcement and other challenges. Through practice, looters acquire and orally share a great deal of practical knowledge; this is different from the scientific knowledge of archaeologists. Looters change their ways of committing their crimes and learn new modus operandi, such as changing their timing when offending, adapting their work to rural areas, changing how they store and transport looted antiquities, and adopting new technologies.


During the course participants will:

➣ Learn about a unique and pervasive form of transnational crime with significant social and legal dimensions. 
➣ Review the differences between popular thought vs. core literature on this complex subject and the debates about source country actors within the discipline of criminology.
➣ Explore why, despite laws being on the books for some time prohibiting unsanctioned exca­vation, such laws are often still ineffective at stopping the plunder of archaeological artefacts from key source countries.
➣ Explore how to arrive at reasoned and informed judgment on issues relating to archaeological looting and the transgressors who commit these types of crimes.


Course Instructor

Dr. Marc Balcells is a Spanish criminologist, a professor at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, and an associate professor at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. Marc holds degrees in Law (Universitat Pompeu Fabra; Barcelona), Criminology (Universitat Autònoma; Barcelona), and Human Sciences (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya), and masters both in Criminal Law (Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Universitat de Barcelona) and Criminal Justice (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York). A Fulbright scholar, he obtained his Ph.D. in Criminal Justice at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, at John Jay College. His research revolves around cultural heritage crime and, more specifically, the criminological aspects of archaeological looters. He frequently appears in Spanish media outlets to raise awareness about cultural heritage crime. Other research interests of Marc are victimology and cybercrime.

What we will explore


How we can empirically analyse the figure of the looter of antiquities from a criminological perspective.


How the actors who supply looted antiquities fit intro broader topics such as transnational crimes, organized crime and trafficking.


Real-world cases to understand the figure of the looter in the chain of trafficked antiquities, and in order to identify all relevant aspects in these criminal dynamic.

How People Are Reacting

I took this online course as an introduction to the topic when the COVID pandemic prevented me from attending ARCA’s PG Cert program in Italy. The course gave me an exciting baseline introduction and I look forward to taking their summer professional training program next year.

Sarah Scott

As a university student taking courses in organized crime and terrorism, I wanted to understand better how art intersects with these more well known types of criminal behaviors. Professor Tijhuis and Professor Albertson gave me an excellent overview and I look forward to seeing what other courses on the subject ARCA develops.

Luis Rodriguez