The devastation caused by the trafficking of illicit antiquities and the theft of art has gained widespread public attention in recent years.

Confronted with the pock-marked “lunar landscapes” of archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria, freshly decapitated Buddha sculptures in Cambodia and empty frames on the walls of museums, we face a difficult question: how do we protect our heritage from theft, illegal sale, and destruction? The aim of “Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime“, a free online course developed by the Trafficking Culture project and the University of Glasgow, is to answer this question. 

Shed light on the grey market for stolen art

On this free online course, taught by researchers from the University of Glasgow’s Trafficking Culture Project, students will gain a better understanding of:

-the criminal networks that engage in antiquities trafficking and art crime;

-the harmful effects that these phenomena have on communities and society as a whole;

-and what scholars, police, and lawmakers are doing to protect our heritage.

By combining cutting-edge research in the fields of criminology, archaeology, anthropology, sociology, art history, museums studies, and law, the course will shed light on the grey market for stolen art.

Learn how and why art is stolen, trafficked, found, and returned

In Week 1, the students will track how ancient artefacts are looted from archaeological sites, trafficked across multiple international borders, and end up in the possession of some of the world’s most respectable museums and collectors.

In Week 2, students will learn about crimes of fine art: heists, fakes, and vandalism.

In Week 3, the ethical, legal, and emotional issues associated with the return of stolen cultural objects will be discussed.


All learners are invited to this course. No prior knowledge is required.

Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime starts on 1 February, is open to anyone, and is available for free on the Open University’s online learning platform FutureLearn: