|Mummified remains exposed by looters at El-Hibeh (Image: El-Hibeh Project)|
At this point you may be wondering to yourself one of several things:
- Why would Egyptians be doing this to their own cultural heritage?
- Why are no police guarding the site?
- Why should I care about this stuff? It's not my problem OR there is nothing I can do.
Hunger and general poverty lead most people in the Middle East to loot. A police force stationed at every site in Egypt is completely impossible and even police monitoring would be sporadic, at best, given the current political strife still plaguing the country. You should care because we--the market countries, the buyers of ancient objects because we want to feel "closer to the past"--are fueling this looting, and as a consequence, we are destroying the past.
Think about it: if looters/dealers could not make any money off this material, then people would not bother digging the stuff out of the ground. This is on par with Mexican drug cartels and African blood diamonds. Think people don't get killed dealing with antiquities? Think again.
So please, tell your friends and family about the situation in Egypt, in Syria, in Libya. Tell them not to buy antiquities that do not have a clear provenance, i.e. ownership history. Ask questions: where is this object from? When did it leave that place? Under what circumstances? Ask to see proof, paperwork, anything. You wouldn't want to run the risk of buying stolen goods, would you? Well, looted objects are exactly that.