Grave robbers, we all know, loot tombs for material gain. Recently, however, Italian tomb robbers, or tombaroli, have sought public attention by publishing their biographies and appearing on television to present an entirely new image of their métier. They depict themselves as heroes who bring the treasures of the past to the public and boast of an expertise, which remains unrecognised by official archaeologists. Rather than merely dismissing these stories as a justification, or glorification of an illegal activity, a more careful reading reveals many issues, which are of considerable importance to heritage management and archaeological research. These accounts contain a wealth of information on the identity of the people who loot tombs; their backgrounds, motivations and attempts to legitimate their actions. Moreover, they provide a unique insight into the relations between tomb robbers and the communities within which they operate. It is well known that public opinion in Italy and elsewhere to some extent sanctions illegal digging and, in my view, changing these attitudes could prove to be one of the most important steps towards a more effective policy of protecting the cultural patrimony.