Hubert Szemethy


UNESCO’s efforts for an enhancement of the protection of cultural property have a long tradition. Above all, the “UNESCO-Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property” (Paris, 1970) has been of pathbreaking importance to archaeology as it was published in a time when art markets began to focus more and more on archaeological and ethnological assets from countries which do not maintain sufficient infrastructure and resources to protect their own cultural heritage. Nevertheless, almost 35 years after having entered into force the situation remains unchanged. The number of antiquities without provenience on the market is increasing. The extend of illicit excavations – that destroy the important archaeological find contexts – are increasing as well. The relation between art market and illicit excavations and illicit trade in cultural assets is obvious. By referring to several case studies, this paper points to the dilemma of archaeologists who intend to attract interest on cultural heritage by their work, their research and outreach activities. The paper also firmly demands the ratification of the UNESCO-Convention of 1970 by Austria – as well as the ratification of the UNIDROIT-Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects (Rome, 1995).