A pioneering US research programme called “K-9 Artefact Finders” has been set up in response to alarm over cultural heritage trafficking.

The UN Security Council has confirmed that heritage trafficking is used by terrorists as a means of generating illicit income. The illegal traffic in artefacts from Syria and Iraq is a major issue. Michael Danti, an archaeologist who has worked in Iran, Iraq and Syria, said that dogs can already detect soil and agricultural products as well as drugs and explosives, and he believes that their target scents could be further refined to target artefacts, potentially hampering the trade in stolen artefacts. The programme is taking place in the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Vet Working Dog Centre.