Below are a number of UN Conventions that are linked to the return of cultural arefacts that have some relevance for the return of artefacts to the Celtic countries. Unfortunately the international laws and guidelines from the UN only largely apply between (political) States and not within the State.

There are no laws within States that relate to the return of arefacts to the nations within the State. The return of artefacts to nation(s) within the same State e.g. return of the Mold Cape to Wales from the British Museum, are solely dependent on the 'goodwill' of the institution where the artefact is being kept.

Under the Treasure Act 1996 - applied in Cornwall, England, Northern Ireland and Wales - when aretfacts are discovered and fit the characteristic of 'Treasure' they must be presented to the local coroner. This new Law gives a clear definition of what is defined as 'treasure'. This website provides a useful guide to how the Treasure Act 1996 is applied in these countries. In Scotland another law applies.

United Nations (UN) 

UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects (UNIDROIT) 1995

The UNIDROIT session in 1995 essentially removed the time limitations of UNESCO’s 1970 convention (see below). In this session, nations are required, in all cases, to return cultural artefacts to their countries of origin if those items were once stolen or removed illegally.  The convention also states that the nations currently in possession of the artifacts should be fairly compensated for returning the objects, assuming the government had no knowledge that the objects were acquired illegally.

Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (set up in 1978)

The committee is charged with negotiating bilateral agreements between nations regarding the return of cultural artefacts, reinforcing international guidelines for cultural protection and preservation, and conducting educational campaigns to raise awareness about the issue. Member States to the committee may also request an inquiry into the return of a cultural artifact, but only after bilateral negotiations have broken down. At the Committee's March 2003 session, the committee requested that UNESCO establish a website to keep track of all national laws regarding cultural artefacts in addition to the import/export licenses for these objects.

Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970 -

UNESCO Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws

In 2003, UNESCO devised an international solution to combat the illicit traffic of cultural property: the UNESCO Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws. By compiling on the Internet the national laws of its Member States, UNESCO offers all stakeholders involved (Governments, customs officials, art dealers, organizations, lawyers, buyers and so forth) a complete and easily accessible source of information.


The main law here relates to the National Monuments Amendment Act 1994

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Cornwall, Isle of Man, Scotland, part of Ireland)

The main law here relates to the trade of cultural artefacts and is based around the 'Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003'. This website provides other useful background. Here is a fact sheet giving further guidance.

 France (Brittany)


This free website was made using Yola.

No HTML skills required. Build your website in minutes.

Go to and sign up today!

Make a free website with Yola