Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Looting Archaeological Sites: It's Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

A front page story in the Los Angeles Times of Jan. 22, 2008 (where this photo appeared) tells of the looting going on at nearly 12,000 sites in Iraq.

What do the looters get? According to the times, "coins, jewelry and fragile clay tablets etched in wedge-like cuneiform script, recording myths, decrees, business transactions and other details of Mesopotamian life."

Professor Elizabeth Stone of SUNY estimates that looters have torn up 167 million square feet.

It's not my country, and I am more upset about the loss of life in Iraq than the looting--or I try to be. Still, this is appalling. 4000-year-old remains and detritus do not grow on trees.

Once dug up, the context is loss. Most of what we could have learned is destroyed. The vase/statue/seal/pot sat there for 4000 years, but some poor schmuck who keeps a shop by day digs a pit, takes what he can, and it's gone, along with the chance to know more.

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