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Red List

Red List success stories


  • The OCBC specifically stated that ICOM’s Emergency Red List of Iraqi Antiquities at Risk helped in the recovery and restitution of 13 Iraqi archaeological objects from the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia, dated from 2350 BC to 1700 BC. The seized objects, two cones and some tablets of clay with cuneiform writing were identified by OCBC investigators through an auction website due to their likely Iraqi origins. On 16 October, photographs of these objects were displayed by a researcher from the Department of Sumerian antiquities at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). This led to the objects being confirmed as authentic and coming from a lowland area of Iraq whose archaeological sites had suffered extensive looting in the last 10 years.
    The seized objects were returned to Iraq on 3 December, 2012 during a ceremony held in the Iraqi Embassy in Paris, in the presence of his Excellency the Ambassador of Iraq, representatives from the OCBC, the French Ministry of Culture and ICOM.
  • Switzerland returned four pre-Columbian ceramics, possibly of the Chancay culture and dating back to the 14th-15th centuries, to Peru. The ceremony, held in Berna, was attended by both the Peruvian ambassador and the Director of the OFC (Office fédéral de la culture). The OFC reminded everyone that these objects were subject to frequent illicit trading, which is why they were included in ICOM’s 2007 Red List of Peruvian Antiquities at Risk.


  • The National Museum of Afghanistan recognised that, in the past four years, the Red List of Afghanistan Antiquities at Risk allowed for the return of 8000 objects from all over the world.
  • Spanish police officials, the Grupo de Patrimonio Histórico de la Guardia Civil, specifically requested permission to use the Red List of African Archaeological Objects in identifying seized African objects and advice on ICOM experts that could be consulted for confirmation.
  • The Red List of African Archaeological Objects was instrumental in identifying undocumented Djenne and Nok terracotta statues that were to be auctioned in Brussels.
  • The Red List of Peruvian Antiquities at Risk was used as reference in identifying the sale in Munich of suspected pre-Colombian objects. The Peruvian Delegation at UNESCO was immediately alerted and appropriate measures were taken to protect said objects.
  • The Peruvian Red List also allowed for a heritage professional, who asked to remain anonymous, to alert ICOM of the activities of a Peruvian looter who was selling objects through the internet. INTERPOL was immediately alerted and local authorities launched a full investigation.
  • The Red List of Cambodian Antiquities at Risk alerted a private buyer to the possible illicit provenance of statues that were being sold in Singapore. The buyer immediately contacted ICOM and investigations are currently underway.


  • Thanks to the Red List of Afghanistan Antiquities at Risk English customs officials at Heathrow Airport were able to intercept and confiscate 3.4 tons of stolen objects between 2007 and 2009, representing over 1,500 pieces. In 2009, the British Government, in cooperation with the British Museum and with the help of the Red Cross and the National Geographic Society, returned the objects to the National Museum of Kabul.
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