It is not against the law, if no one can see you: Online social organisation of artefact-hunting in former Yugoslavia

I’m happy to say that it is not against the law, if no one can see you: online social organisation of artefact-hunting in former Yugoslavia has been published in the Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology, as part of a special collection on fighting illicit trade in antiquities with digital technology.

Abstract

This study uses open-source intelligence to analyse the illicit excavation and illicit trafficking of archaeological goods (and forgeries) across the Balkan-Eastern Mediterranean region(s) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia. It draws on texts and images that have been published by hundreds of artefact-hunters across tens of online communities and other online platforms. These include online forums; social networks, such as Facebook and Instagram; social media, such as Pinterest and YouTube; generic trading platforms, such as eBay, Etsy and olx.ba; and specialist trading platforms, such as VCoins.

It shows how artefact-hunters target sites, features and objects; reveal the objects that are collectible and/or marketable; acquire equipment; form patron-client relationships, peer-to-peer partnerships and other cooperative groups; engage in transnational activity; crowdsource techniques for smuggling; crowdsource ways to avoid being caught or punished; and respond to policing. Often, they give identifying details or leave an electronic paper trail that enables their identification. Such information also reveals the destructiveness of processes of extraction and consumption; the economics of the low-end market in cultural goods from poor countries; the gender dimension in cultural property crime and cyber-enabled crime; and the interaction between political allegiance and criminal activity. Thereby, this study shows how netnography and social network analysis can support intelligence-led policing.

Other articles on illicit trade in the special collection

Other articles in the special collection cover remote and close range sensing of looting in Peru; machine learning for satellite image analysis of looting and destruction in Syria; other satellite image analysis of looting in Syria; and machine learning for inference of sources of supply in the online trade in human remains.

Citation

Hardy, S A. 2021: “It is not against the law, if no one can see you: Online social organisation of artefact-hunting in former Yugoslavia”. Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology [Special Issue on Fighting Illicit Trade in Antiquities with Digital Technology], Volume 4, Number 1, 169-187. [DOI]

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