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Archaeological Site Looting in “Glocal” Perspective: Nature, Scope, and Frequency

January 2013 (117.1)

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Archaeological Site Looting in “Glocal” Perspective: Nature, Scope, and Frequency

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The looting of archaeological sites undermines the preservation of cultural heritage. The purpose of this study is to broaden and refine our understanding of the nature, geographic scope, and frequency of looting and archaeological site destruction and to place looting in global perspective. Situated within a “glocal” (global and local) context, this study focuses on a large sample of field archaeologists working throughout the world and their opinions about and personal encounters with looting. Some key findings are presented: first, that the overwhelming majority of surveyed field archaeologists have experienced looting firsthand on more than one occasion; second, that archaeological site looting is in fact a globally pervasive problem and is not limited to certain parts of the world to the exclusion of others. The paper ends with a consideration of the implications of such findings for the broader cultural heritage debate.

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Archaeological Site Looting in “Glocal” Perspective: Nature, Scope, and Frequency

By Blythe Bowman Proulx

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 117, No. 1 (January 2013), pp. 111–125

DOI: 10.3764/aja.117.1.0111

© 2013 Archaeological Institute of America


Interesting study on looting of archaeology sites. The author conveys the impression that the reason most looting accrues is due to monetary gains. While I agree this is the primary reason for modern looting, I think another reason for looting may have existed for ancient stealing as opposed to modern thief. This is the removal of objects from graves and structures within several generations of interment, specifically in Ancient Egypt. In the Valley of the Kings, the majority of tombs used for Court Officials have when recently excavated been found to contain broken vessels and desecrated bodies. While of course this desecration may have been carried out by professional thieves, it should be considered that the local population was expressing their rage against the people who controlled their lives. The author should have included a extra question in the article survey dealing with an estimate on how long ago the looting took place after the interment.

Tim Sexton

Tim Sexton's comment on the time of the theft was well put, and this question absolutely should be included, if it's at all possible to know the time at which the theft occurred.

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