We realized the need for the Antiquities Coalition during the Egyptian Revolution of January 2011. In the weeks after the uprising, reports of cultural racketeering lit up the archaeological hotlines, as thieves plundered ancient sites, museums, storerooms, and places of worship. In the midst of the chaos, brave Egyptians linked hands to form a human chain around the Cairo Museum, risking their lives to save it from looters. This heroism, which was repeated time and again throughout the country, inspired us to act.
From around the world, a wide range of experts joined our call to action, from archaeologists, to authors, curators, Egyptologists, lawyers, and museum directors. We then partnered with other concerned organizations — including the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), and the Capitol Archaeological Institute (CAI) — to launch the International Coalition to Protect Egyptian Antiquities (ICPEA). Invited by Egypt to discuss ways to best support the government, the ICPEA and the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities developed a public-private partnership, the first of its kind. This landmark agreement focuses the power and ingenuity of academic, business, and cultural leaders to fight cultural racketeering in Egypt through public education, social entrepreneurship programs, specialized training, and other solutions-based initiatives.
But Egypt is not the only country at risk. The tragedy of cultural racketeering is being repeated from China to Iraq to Peru and everywhere in between. We created the Antiquities Coalition to host other initiatives similar to the ICPEA — expanding this model to other countries in times of crisis.