Saudi Arabia

In recent decades, archeology in Saudi Arabia has developed rapidly. Recent discoveries include numerous settlements that are hundreds of thousands of years old.

What is considered cultural property in Saudi Arabia?

In Saudi Arabia, movable, buried or perished objects that are located within the boundaries of the Kingdom and sea areas and are more than 100 years old are considered ancient. These must have been made, produced, adapted or drawn by human hands. These include, but are not limited to, sculptures, coins, inscriptions, ornaments, jewelry, and inherited artifacts that are of national importance due to their historical, scientific, aesthetic, artistic, and traditional value or historical use.

What sanctions are there?

Trade in antiquities is already significantly restricted. Registered movable cultural assets in state ownership cannot be sold. Privately owned cultural assets, which are listed in the "Antiquities Record", can only be used within the country, with documentation obligations and with the permission of the Cultural Property Protection authority (Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, SCTA) are sold. Auctions of ancient and folk inherited artifacts require SCTA approval. The purchase of antiquities is only possible if the ownership of the sellers is reliably proven when the buyers are registered with the SCTA. There are separate regulations for this. The export of museum cultural assets and museum replicas for exhibition purposes in international exchange is permitted and subject to separate regulations. The import of cultural assets also requires official examination.

What sanctions are there?

The export, sale or disposal of a movable antiquity is punishable by a fine of up to 15,000 riyals. In addition, the provisions of the Customs Act apply to smuggling. The customs authorities hand over confiscated items to the SCTA.

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
  • 1971
    The Hague Convention of 1954
    Protection of the cultural property of countries in the event of armed conflict
  • 1972
    Antiquities Act no. M26
    Definition of archaeological objects and sites, punitive measures against looting and destruction of archaeological sites and against theft of cultural assets, illegal excavations and illegal import and export
  • 1976
    UNESCO 1970 Convention
    Means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property
  • 2001
    The Protection of Documents Act of 2001 in Saudi Arabia
    Definition of documents and role of the King Fahad Library
  • 2007
    Hague Convention, Second Protocol of 1999
    Clarification and extension of the 1954 Hague Convention
  • 2014
    Law on Antiquities, Museums and Architectural Heritage Saudi Arabia
    Extension of the definition of archaeological objects and excavations, trade in antiquities, establishment of protection zones around archaeological sites, sanctions