The Return of a Stolen Cultural Treasure to Peru
An Exhibition of a Moche Gold Artifact
at the University of Pennsylvania Museum July 16 through August 8, 1998

Looting Ancient Tombs

Looters not only steal objects, they destroy sites, along with valuable evidence that can never be replaced.

Above: Numerous pits made by grave robbers on an ancient Peruvian cemetery at El Brujo. Grave robbers have plundered this site for hundreds of years.

Left: The damaging aftermath of grave robbing at Sipan.. [photo: Christopher Donnan, after site was secured by Walter Alva and the Peruvian police]

Looters don't consider some of the tombs' contents -- like bones or textiles -- to have any value, and these they leave behind, exposed and scattered. Irreplaceable evidence is therefore lost -- forever. Looters are only interested in the market value of an object's material.

Look at the difference!
At left is a model tomb as excavated and reconstructed by archaeologists, showing everything in place (in context) as it was found. Unlike looters, archaeologists know that it is the context that is priceless. In context, every object discovered has irreplaceable value because it has meaning. It is only with careful and documented excavation that we can have an accurate "picture" with which to interpret the past.

Because of their beauty and fine workmanship, Moche artifacts are highly valued in the international art market. It is important to stop their looting and smuggling.

Don't collect or buy illegal art objects!
Discourage others from doing so!

You can help! more >

Enforcement of existing agreements between Peru and the United States may reduce the looting. The El Brujo Site is now protected by the National Institute of Culture of Peru.

looting in Turkey

the future of archaeology

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