What is cultural property?

The legal meaning of cultural property differs from country to country. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) uses a globally accepted definition.

This definition reads: 'cultural property means property which, on religious or secular grounds, is specifically designated by each State as being of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science.'

To qualify as cultural property in terms of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (Implementation) Act, the object must belong to one of the categories provided for under article 1 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention and be of great cultural, historical and scientific importance that belongs to the statutorily-protected cultural heritage of a country.