The Illicit Antiquities Research Centre (IARC), part of the McDonald Institute at the University of Cambridge, has been awarded the European Archaeological Heritage Prize for 2004.

The award recognises the Institute's 'internationally unique' contribution to European and world heritage protection.

Instituted by the European Association of Archaeologists in 1999, the European Archaeological Heritage Prize is awarded annually for an 'outstanding contribution to the protection and presentation of the European archaeological heritage'.

The IARC was launched in 1997 in response to increasing international concerns about illicit excavations and trade in antiquities.

Although a small team, the IARC conducts a wide range of activities, including campaigns, such as the exhibition and publication 'Stealing History'. It has hosted meetings where archaeologists, police, government ministers and lawyers from all over the world meet. From one of these meetings in 1999 a Cambridge Resolution was passed to encourage effective national legislation, and a new International Standing Committee on Traffic in Illicit Antiquities was founded.

The IARC has achieved a major change of attitude among museums and politicians, highlighted by the UK's ratification after 30 years of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

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