After centuries of religious wars and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, interest in antiquities grew in the 18th century. As a result, the Ottoman Antiquities Law is passed in 1874.

What is considered cultural property in Israel?

In Israel, movable and immovable objects created by humans before 1700 are considered antiquities. Objects of special historical value created from 1700 onwards can also be declared as antiquities by the Ministry of Education and Culture. The Ministry can also define antiquities as objects of national value that are under special protection and the sale or transfer of which must be declared. In addition, antiquities found after the entry into force of the Israeli Antiquities Law, within certain limits established by the Ministry, are considered state property.

What are the export regulations?

Antiquities may be exported with the written permission of the Ministry of Education and Culture.

What sanctions are there?

A breach of the export regulations for antiquities can result in six months' imprisonment or fines of up to 30,000 pounds.

Chronology of cultural property protection laws

  • 1869
    Edict of Safiet Pasha, Vizier of the Ottoman Empire
    Edict on the collection of antiquities in Constantinople and the introduction of an export ban
  • 1874
    Ottoman Antiquities Law
    Regulation of the movement of excavated antiquities and the division of finds
  • 1884
    Ottoman Antiquities Law
    Regulation of the trade in antiquities; excavations as well as excavation licenses must be applied for
  • 1918
    Antiquities Proclamation under the British Mandate
    Importance of the cultural heritage of the region; establishment of the Palestine Archaeological Museum
  • 1920
    Antiquities Regulation for Palestine (AO 1920)
    Antiquities are placed under protection, excavations and the trade in antiquities are regulated, first trading licenses are issued
  • 1922
    The League of Nations’ Mandate for Palestine Article 21
    Right of scientific access for domestic and foreign members of the League of Nations
  • 1929
    – 1930
    Antiquities Regulation No. 51 (AO 1929)
    Obligations of the Antiquities Authority; export licenses become necessary
  • 1948
    Law No. 5708-1948
    Establishment of the Military Antiquities Unit; confirmation of Regulation AO 1929 in Israel; AO 1929 remains in force in the West Bank and Gaza
  • 1958
    The Hague Convention of 1954
    Protection of the cultural property of countries in the event of armed conflicts
  • 1978
    Antiquities Law Israel AL 1978
    Regulation and licenses for excavation, trade, collection and export; protection of archaeological sites
  • 2002
    Law No. 5738-1978, in particular §§ 1, 22, 37
    Right of ownership, licenses and conditions for excavations, publications, trade, export and collection of antiquities; trade in antiquities from museums; archaeological sites and their protection