Can Blockchain Technology Disrupt the Trade in Illicit Antiquities?

Vol. 14 No. 2

Derek Fincham, PhD ( is a professor at South Texas College of Law Houston. His research interests include art law, heritage theft, antiquities looting, and repatriation. He serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Cultural Property and writes regularly about art and the law at

The international trade in antiquities carries works of art from their nations of origin to markets and museums all over the world. Unfortunately, it relies far too often on secrecy, because demand for these ancient objects outpaces supply. Nearly every nation has attempted to restrict the movement of these objects through sensible legal restrictions, but these laws often serve to incentivize the black market in these objects because there are very few legal and ethical means for objects to enter this supply chain. In far too many cases, those cultural objects that do reach the market have been stolen or even looted from their archaeological context. War, poverty, and the remoteness of many archaeological sites make safeguarding them difficult.

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