Skip to main content Accessibility help

Through a Glass, Darkly: Long-Term Antiquities Auction Data in Context

  • Neil Brodie (a1)


The antiquities catalogues of major auction houses comprise an accessible long-term source of information about the auction market in antiquities and the market in antiquities more generally. The information contained in these catalogues has been used to investigate the nature and scale of the market and to assess the impact of legal and normative measures of market control. But, by way of two case studies, referencing Iraqi and Cambodian material sold at the New York branch of Sotheby’s, this article argues that, while auction catalogues do provide an invaluable source of information for investigating the antiquities market, it can be misleading. Changing material or monetary statistics might reflect commercial factors unrelated to market control. For more reliable research, long-term auction data should be contextualized with information available from other sources.



Hide All
Beltrametti, Silvia, and Marrone, James. 2016. “Market Responses to Court Rulings: Evidence from Antiquities Auctions.” Journal of Law and Economics 59, no. 4: 913–44.
Brodie, Neil. 2006. “Iraq 1990–2004 and the London Antiquities Market.” In Archaeology, Cultural Heritage, and the Antiquities Trade, edited by Brodie, Neil, Kersel, Morag M., Luke, Christina, and Tubb, Kathryn W., 206–26. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
Brodie, Neil. 2008. “The Western Market in Iraqi Antiquities.” In Antiquities under Seige. Cultural Heritage Protection after the Iraq War, edited by Rothfield, Lawrence, 6374. Lanham, MD: AltaMira.
Brodie, Neil. 2011. “Academic Involvement in the Market in Iraqi Antiquities.” In Crime in the Art and Antiquities World: Illegal Trafficking in Cultural Property, edited by Manacorda, Stefano and Chappell, Duncan, 117–33. New York: Springer.
Brodie, Neil, and Doole, Jenny. 2004. “The Asian Art Affair: US Art Museum Collections of Asian Art and Archaeology.” In Material Engagements: Studies in Honour of Colin Renfrew, edited by Brodie, Neil and Hills, Catherine, 83108. Cambridge, MA: McDonald Institute.
Brodie, Neil, Doole, Jenny, and Renfrew, Colin, eds. 2001. Trade in Illicit Antiquities: The Destruction of the World’s Archaeological Heritage. Cambridge, MA: McDonald Institute.
Brodie, Neil, and Manivet, Palmyre. 2017. “Cylinder Seal Sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s (1985–2013).” Journal of Art Crime 17: 316.
Chippindale, Christopher, Gill, David W. J., Salter, Emily, and Hamilton, Christian. 2001. “Collecting the Classical World: First Steps in a Quantitative History.” International Journal of Cultural Property 10: 131.
Davis, Tess. 2011. “Supply and Demand: Exposing the Illicit Trade in Cambodian Antiquities through a Study of Sotheby’s Auction House.” Crime, Law and Social Change 56: 155–74.
Davis, Tess. 2015. “The Lasting Impact of United States vs Cambodian Sculpture.” In Countering Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods, edited by Desmarais, France, 95106. Paris: International Council of Museums.
Davis, Tess, and Mackenzie, Simon. 2015. “Crime and Conflict: Temple Looting in Cambodia.” In Cultural Property Crime: An Overview and Analysis of Contemporary Perspectives and Trends, edited by Kila, Joris D. and Balcells, Marc, 292306. Leiden: Brill.
Eisenberg, Jerome. 2004. “The Autumn 2003 Antiquities Sales.” Minerva 15, no. 2: 2532.
Elia, Ricardo J. 2001. “Analysis of the Looting, Selling, and Collecting of Apulian Red-Figure Vases: A Quantitative Approach.” In Brodie, Doole, and Renfrew, , Trade in Illicit Antiquities, 145–54.
Gilgan, Elizabeth. 2001. “Looting and the Market for Maya Objects: A Belizean Perspective.” In Doole, Brodie, and Renfrew, , Trade in Illicit Antiquities, 7388.
Hauser-Schäublin, Brigitta. 2016. “Looted, Trafficked, Donated and Returned: The Twisted Tracks of Cambodian Antiquities.” In Cultural Property and Contested Ownership, edited by Hauser-Schäublin, Brigitta and Prott, Lyndel V., 6481. London: Routledge.
Kiel, Katherine, and Tedesco, Katherine. 2011. “Stealing History: How Does Provenance Affect the Price of Antiquities.” College of the Holy Cross, Department of Economics Faculty Research Series Paper no. 11–05.
Lafont, Masha. 2004. Pillaging Cambodia. Jefferson City, MI: McFarland.
Levine, Jane. 2009. “The Importance of Provenance Documentation in the Market for Ancient Art and Artifacts: The Future of the Market May Depend upon Documenting the Past.” DePaul Journal of Art, Technology and Intellectual Property Law 19, no. 2: 219–34.
Levine, Marc, and Martínez de Luna, Lucha. 2013. “Museum Salvage: A Case Study of Mesoamerican Artifacts in Museum Collections and on the Antiquities Market.” Journal of Field Archaeology 38, no. 3: 264–76.
Lobay, Gordon. 2009. “Border Controls in Market Countries as Disincentives to Antiquities Looting at Source? The US-Italy Bilateral Agreement 2001.” In Criminology and Archaeology, edited by Mackenzie, Simon and Green, Penny, 5982. Oxford: Hart.
Nørskov, Vinnie. 2002. Greek Vases in New Contexts. Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press.
Thompson, Don. 2008. The $12 Million Stuffed Shark. New York: Palgrave.
Watson, Peter. 1997. Sotheby’s: Inside Story. London: Bloomsbury.
Watson, Peter, and Todeschini, Cecilia. 2007. The Medici Conspiracy. New York: Public Affairs.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed