Imagine a new way to catch antiquities traffickers with the help of working dogs.
Finding target scents linked to illegally looted artifacts could equip customs officers with the advanced tool they need to nab heritage traffickers and their smuggled packages at airports, cargo facilities, and other ports of entry. In this way, humanity's rich culture and history can be recovered and preserved.
Penn Vet is the right institution to undertake this critical research.It is a national research and development center for detection dogs.
The K-9 Artifact Finders project is now more urgent than ever.
Along with many others in government, the nonprofit sector, and academia, the U.N. Security Council has found that terrorist groups are generating income from "the looting and smuggling of cultural property from archaeological sites, museums, libraries, archives, and other sites," and that these crimes against culture are "being used to support their recruitment efforts and to strengthen their operational capability to organize and carry out terrorist attacks ….” (Resolution 2347, March 2017)
The K-9 Artifact Finders project can help tackle this top-priority concern.
How K-9 Artifact Finders got started.
K-9 Artifact Finders grew out of RED ARCH's research into U.S. imports of cultural objects from the Middle East and North Africa, published on the Cultural Heritage Lawyer blog and presented at the Culture Under Threat conference in Cairo, Egypt in 2015.
The research provoked troubling questions like:
Why, in a time of civil war, did the declared value of U.S. imports of "antiques" from Syria climb 133% between 2012 and 2013?
Why did the declared value of U.S. imports of "antiques" from Iraq skyrocket 1302% between 2009 and 2013, from $322,564 to $4,523,126, during a period of unrest?
Were these imports looted and smuggled archaeological artifacts?
RED ARCH wanted answers, but it was clear that better tools were needed to detect shipments of illegal artifacts at the American border.
How will the K-9 Artifact Finders program be carried out?
The kind of canine training we will undertake is mostly unprecedented. To prevent any cross-contamination of odors, the primary study will focus on the Fertile Crescent region in modern-day Iraq. This area is historically rich, making it a prime target for cultural heritage looters.
For Phase I of the project, we will rely on four dogs from the Penn Vet Working Dog Center's training program, confirming that all dogs have the mental and physical capacity to perform the precise detection work needed. They will be treated humanely, with care.
We will conduct initial scent imprinting of up to three types of freshly excavated artifacts—lawfully excavated, properly documented, and legally imported with the help of archaeologists, including those from the Penn Musuem. Once imprinted, we will teach odor discrimination. The dogs will be tested in a double-blind manner, meaning that the researcher, data collector, and trainer will not know the treatment of each specific sample presented to the dog.
If successful, and if additional funding can be secured, RED ARCH would like to pursue Phase II, which is on-the-ground testing. And if that proves successful, we would like to move to Phase III, creating a demonstration program for customs officers so that they can adopt and deploy this new tool.
Support K-9 Artifact Finders!
Give today and be a part of this exciting and groundbreaking project. Your donation is tax deductible because RED ARCH is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
Thank you to our experts!
We want to thank the following experts for their enormous help designing the K-9 Artifact Finders project:
Domenic DiGiovanni, Customs and Border Protection Officer (Ret.) at US Department of Homeland Security
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