Egypt turns to technology in effort to protect ancient treasures from looters

02 Jun 2014 4:21 PM | Anonymous

Egypt turns to technology in effort to protect ancient treasures from looters

Fears for ancient sites and tourism prompts use of satellite imagery to track extent of damage wrought by theft of artefacts
Nubian archers
Statues of Nubian archers that were stolen from the Egyptian Museum during the first days of the revolution have been returned, but looting continues to be a problem. Photograph: Mahmoud Khaled/Getty/AFP

The closest comparison is Swiss cheese: holes in vast swaths of land where looters, armed with machine guns and bulldozers, take to ancient archaeological sites in search of loot. To the untrained eye, these holes, visible in satellite images, seem haphazard. But to experts, these deep pits, spanning hectares of land, are the work of sophisticated traffickers.

It's exactly the kind of looting that worries Mohamed Ibrahim Ali, Egypt's minister of state for antiquities. "The objects that are stolen from museums are easier to track because they are registered," Ibrahim said, referring to artefacts taken from Egypt's Malawi National Museum and Egyptian Museum in Cairo, many of which have been identified and returned. "The problem is the illicit digging everywhere. In Egypt, when you dig, you find something. So some gangs have started to become active very quickly because of the breakdown of the police force."

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