redlist Red List of
Cambodian Antiquities at Risk
icom museum

PDFPDF version

For more than two millennia the Khmer have produced objects that are widely regarded for their æsthetic value. Many such objects are integral parts of the thousands of ancient sites throughout Cambodia which are now testament to the kingdom's rich history. The Prehistoric past of Cambodia remains largely unexplored and undocumented. The looting of sites from all periods of Cambodia's past robs the world of the chance to understand the unique beginnings and continuous evolution of the Khmer civilization. It is imperative that the illicit trade in antiquities be brought to an end.

The Red List includes the following categories of objects :
(The objects are grouped according to the material they are made of. The photographs which illustrate the categories were provided by the National Museum of Cambodia, the Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient, and the Heritage Watch, hereafter respectively referred to as NMC, EFEO and HW for the copyrights. At the date of this printing, these images do not reproduce stolen objects; they serve only to illustrate the categories of objects which are the target of illicit traffic. Within these categories, the objects are presented in four time periods.)

METAL (comprising bronze, copper, iron, gold, and silver)

  1. PREHISTORY
  2. PRE-ANGKOR
  3. ANGKOR
  4. POST-ANGKOR

STONE (including semi-precious stone)

  1. PREHISTORY
  2. PRE-ANGKOR
  3. ANGKOR
  4. POST-ANGKOR

CERAMICS AND GLASS

  1. PREHISTORY
  2. ANGKOR
  3. POST-ANGKOR

ORGANIC MATERIAL

  1. POST-ANGKOR

Context

Looted temple at Bakan.
Looted temple at Bakan. © Andrew Burke

The Cambodian government takes considerable measures to protect the country's cultural heritage, but despite them, widespread looting and destruction of archæological sites continues. Looters have targeted Angkorian and Post-Angkorian metal objects and stone sculptural elements for decades. Recently, a new tide of destruction has arisen with the looting of Prehistoric cemetery sites across the country.

The search for ancient artefacts is driven by demand in Cambodia and in the international market place. The illicit trafficking of objects of all types and materials, dating from the Prehistoric period to the 19th century, is stripping the country of its rich cultural heritage. Sculpture, architectural elements, ancient religious documents, bronzes, iron artefacts, wooden objects and ceramics are still being exported illegally at an alarming rate.

Cambodia's cultural resources are very important to its people. Their pride in their heritage is symbolized by the choice of depicting the ancient temple of Angkor Wat on the nation's flag. Moreover, sites such as the Angkor Park are enormously popular with international tourists and constitute an economic resource for Cambodia. Threats to Cambodian heritage therefore continue to be taken seriously by the international community.


Purpose

This Red List has been developed to assist museums, collectors, dealers in art and antiquities, and customs and other law enforcement officials in recognizing objects that may have been looted and illicitly exported from Cambodia. To facilitate this, the List illustrates and describes several categories of objects at risk of being illicitly traded on the antiquities market. These objects are protected under Cambodian law banning their sale and export. Therefore, ICOM appeals to interested parties to refrain from purchasing these objects without first checking thoroughly their origin and provenance documentation.

Because of the diversity of Cambodian objects, the Red List of Cambodian Antiquities at Risk is not exhaustive, and any antiquity that may have originated in Cambodia should be subjected to detailed scrutiny and precautionary measures.

There is a vibrant craft industry in Cambodia today. Artisans produce textiles, lacquer-ware and carvings in stone and wood that emulate those made in the ancient past. The trade in these objects is crucial to the continued development of Cambodia's ongoing craft traditions, and is not meant to be hindered by the publication of this List.
With the support of:
U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs