Safeguarding and protecting cultural heritage sites and artefacts

Project Description

Horizon Europe, GA: 101094237

Start date

1 January 2023


36 Months

Cultural heritage around the globe suffers from wars, natural disasters and human negligence. Cultural goods (CGs) are put at risk through several anthropogenic actions: theft, smuggling and illicit trade, looting and demolition of archaeological sites, or simply neglect of heritage sites. Illicit trade has expanded dramatically, especially in areas affected by armed conflicts and natural disasters. Innovative efforts to protect and preserve cultural heritage are needed. The EU-funded ENIGMA project will work to protect cultural heritage and artefacts. It will focus on technologies enhancing identification, traceability and provenance research of CGs, and safeguarding and monitoring endangered heritage sites. ENIGMA will also collaborate with stakeholders to enhance their role in the preservation and improvement of databases, as well as the introduction of preventive measures.


ENIGMA is a European Project which has been founded by the European Commission through the Horizon Europe Programme. The project will run for 3 years (2023-2026) and involves 12 partners from 7 different countries (Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Finland, Malta, Spain and Switzerland) coordinated by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

The main aim of the project is to achieve excellence in the protection of cultural goods and artefacts from man-made threats by contributing to identification, traceability, and provenance research of cultural goods as well as by safeguarding and monitoring of endangered heritage sites.

Armed conflicts, natural disasters and human actions are the main threats that cultural heritage and, in particular, cultural goods have to face every day. Human actions, such as looting, illicit trade, smuggling, clandestine excavations and many others, have resulted in a large number of objects ending up in private ownership, at auctions, on black markets or sometimes even simply sold as mere trinkets at flea markets due to the impossibility of knowing their real value and provenance.

ENIGMA objectives are designed to help the involved stakeholders better respond to this complex, and multi-dimensional problem, and leverage active collaboration by fostering and enabling interlinking of databases, and evidence-based deployment of preventative measures.

The project is co-designing a novel concept of a Unique Authenticity Identifier by creating an innovative and effective suite of tools to verify the authenticity and provenance of objects that may appear suspicious with minimum effort and cost.

In order to mitigate anthropogenic threats to heritage and protect archaeological sites from looters and monitor sites in conflict areas the project integrates Earth observation and GIS techniques to produce remote sensing tools that will be tested in a realistic operational environment.

The project is also working on the development of an advanced communication and decision support platform that will be validated through pilot cases in several of the project partner countries.

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