In 2016 the United States received around $100 million worth of artifacts and antiques, with about $50 million of that being shipped from Turkey and the other $50 million coming from Egypt. According to documents released on the matter from the United States Census Bureau (USCB) this was the largest annual value to come from each of these countries to the U.S. in at least the past 20 years.

Why are these artifacts being shipped?

According to the USCB documents on the issue, the vast majority of these artifacts got imported to the United States to be sold, as opposed to being temporarily displayed in a museum.

Many of these artifacts got shipped to New York City, since there are countless numbers of auction houses, art galleries and antiquities dealers in the city. Another major problem is that law-enforcement agencies and officials have the extremely difficult task of trying to figure out if a shipment of artifacts was recently looted or not. The resale value of these items may also be higher than what the importer declares in their documents, but this can only be checked by auditing the shipments.

Troubles in Egypt and Turkey

Ever since the 2011 Revolution that took place in Egypt, the country has seen large-scale looting of its ancient sites. The looting has been linked to the deaths of children who work in narrow shafts and guards who try to protect ancient sites.

In November 2016 the U.S. and Egypt reached an agreement to try to curb the antiquities trade. Meanwhile, Turkey has seen increased Artifact shipping since the 2011 civil war in Syria and the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. This has led to relics from neighboring Syria and Iraq going to Turkey before being shipped to the United States.

An increase in gold coins

Finally, the USCB documents disclosed that the import of antique gold coins, which are the ones that are 100 years or older, have made up a major part of the shipments coming from Turkey and Egypt. More than 68 pounds of antique gold coins got shipped from these two countries in 2016. For comparison, between 1996 and 2003, less than 2 pounds of antique gold coins got shipped from Turkey and Egypt to the United States.