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The antiquities trade is the exchange of antiquities and archaeological artifacts from around the world. This trade may be illicit or completely legal. The legal antiquities trade abides by national regulations, allowing for extraction of artifacts for scientific study whilst maintaining archaeological and anthropological context.[clarification needed] The illicit antiquities trade involves non-scientific extraction that ignores the archaeological and anthropological context from the artifacts.
The legal trade in antiquities abide by the laws of the countries in which the artifacts originate. These laws establish how the antiquities may be extracted from the ground and the legal process in which artifacts may leave the country. In many countries excavations and exports were prohibited without official licenses already in the 19th century, as for example in the Ottoman Empire. According to the laws of the countries of origin, there can't be a legal trade with archaeological artifact without official papers. However, most national laws still overturn these regulations.
Illicit or illegal antiquities are those found in illegal or unregulated excavations, and traded covertly. The black market trade of illicit antiquities is supplied by looting and art theft. Artifacts are often those that have been discovered and unearthed at archeological digs and then transported internationally through a middleman to often unsuspecting collectors, museums, antique dealers, and auction houses. The antiquities trade is much more careful in recent years about establishing the provenance of cultural artifacts. Some estimates put annual turnover in billions of US dollars.
Recent trends reveal a large push to repatriate artifacts illicitly extracted and traded on the international market. Such artifacts include those held by museums like the Getty Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In order to solve the phenomenon of looting, aerial surveillance - the effectiveness of which depends on the capability to perform systematic prospections - is increasingly being used. Nevertheless, it is impractical in several countries due to military activity, political restrictions, and/or huge areas and difficult environmental settings (desert, rain forest, etc..). In these contexts, space technology could offer a suitable chance as in the case of Peru. In this country an Italian scientific mission directed by Nicola Masini, since 2008 have been using very high resolution satellite data to observe and monitor the phenomeno of huaqueros (archaeological looting) in some archaeological areas in Southern and Northern Peru.
^Alva, W., 2001. The destruction, looting and traffic of the archaeological heritage of Peru, in Brodie, N.J., Doole, J., Renfrew, C. (eds). 2001. Trade in illicit antiquities: the destruction of the world's archaeological heritage. Cambridge: McDonald Institute, pp. 89-96
^Lasaponara R., Masini N. R. 2010, Facing the archaeological looting in Peru by local spatial autocorrelation statistics of Very high resolution satellite imagery, Proceedings of ICSSA, The 2010 International Conference on Computational Science and its Application (Fukuoka-Japan, March 23 - 26, 2010), Springer, Berlin, pp. 261-269;
^Lasaponara, R.; Leucci, G.; Masini, N.; Persico, R. (2014). "Investigating archaeological looting using satellite images and georadar: the experience in Lambayeque in North Peru". Journal of Archaeological Science. 42: 216-230. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2013.10.032.
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