The need for such a specialist unit is largely due to so-called Islamic State, which has destroyed numerous historic sites in the Middle East, including Iraq’s Nimrud palace, mosques in Mosul and certain Roman ruins in Palmyra.
The unit will be tasked with retrieving works stolen by terrorists, investigations into looting, the protection of ancient objects and reporting on sites of interest to the British military.
Restricting the flow of money to terrorist organisations will also be a key objective.
"Looting and selling antiquities has been proven as a fund-raising method for terrorist groups," said the unit’s commander Lieutenant Colonel Tim Purbrick, who served in the Gulf War before becoming an arts dealer.
"Part of our job is about preventing ‘threat finance’ – you have an adversary extracting cultural property from the region you are operating in and then, in effect, sending it back at you in the form of bombs and bullets."