A Framework Agreement to Strengthen the Fight against Archaeological Looting in the South of France

 On 22 October 2020, the prefect of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region, located in the south of France, and the general commanding the gendarmerie in the same geographical area, signed a framework agreement to fight against the looting of archaeological heritage. The Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs is at the origin of this innovative normative instrument.

For decades, the PACA region has been one of the entry and transit points for looted archaeological heritage, particularly originated from the Maghreb. Xavier Delestre, regional curator of archaeology, published in 2020 a book entitled Le commerce illicite des biens culturels archéologiques en provenance du continent africain. Bilan des saisies en region PACA 2015-2020, which attested to this phenomenon. Over the period between 2015 and 2019, more than 25,000 objects, all origins combined, were seized on this territory of southern France, for a value of nearly 2,500,000 euros.

The agreement signed between the representatives of the State and law enforcement agencies in the region aims to appoint and train a referent in each gendarmerie company, in order to reinforce the fight against the looting of archaeological heritage in the field.

Innovative, this instrument is based on the combined efforts of the law enforcement and cultural sectors, a synergy that is the only way to effectively combat a criminal phenomenon that knows no disciplinary barriers. It completes the network of referents set up several years ago by the National Office for the Fight against Trafficking in Cultural Property, of the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police, and makes it possible to strengthen the means, at the local level, of actors who already have an excellent knowledge of the field.