Chairs: Valentina Vassallo (CyI) and Marina Solomidou-Ieronymidou (Director Emerita, Cyprus Department of Antiquities)

Cultural Heritage sites and objects are often subject to looting and illicit trafficking actions aiming to profit from their manifold value. Such activities occur in different geographical areas, both in Europe and beyond, with illegal excavations, ransacking of known or unknown sites, as well as theft from Cultural Heritage institutions or private collections. In particular, conflict zones are witnesses of intense looting activities feeding the illicit trade of Cultural Heritage. Especially in these areas of conflict, the political and social instability facilitates the pillaging of archaeological sites and the displacement of artefacts. Recent and current conflict and war in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East (EMME) region unfortunately provide a fertile ground for these activities. Furthermore, such illegal activities have also been facilitated by the availability of digital and technological means. For instance, social media and e-commerce have strengthened illicit trade networks and have amplified Cultural Heritage crime opportunities from an economic and geographic point of view. That situation has increased the damage to Cultural Heritage worldwide and encouraged criminal behaviour for illegal profits. In this context, in order to respond to the contemporary challenges of illicit trafficking, it is crucial to identify and use the latest digital tools and technologies as well as to focus on the development of new solutions and methods aimed at preventing, stopping and discovering illegal activities that disrupt the integrity of the world’s cultural patrimony. Likewise, science can contribute significantly to our efforts to protect our cultural heritage by offering new solutions and methodological perspectives in the analysis, characterisation, identification and authentication of cultural goods.

In this framework, we invite contributions that address these challenges through the effective use of digital technologies and scientific methods that offer new solutions and perspectives for combatting the illegal activities and traffic of Cultural Heritage. Contributions may include, but they are not limited to, the following topics:

- Methods and techniques for monitoring endangered heritage monuments and sites

- Development and use of sensors

- Digital tools, technologies and methods to prevent, stop and discover illicit trafficking of Cultural Heritage

- Multidisciplinary cooperation

- Stakeholders’ needs in the fight against illicit trafficking of Cultural Heritage

- Archaeological sciences to combat illicit trafficking of Cultural Heritage

- Artificial intelligence for the Illicit Trafficking Combat