There is an open access article in the latest American Journal of Archaeology (117.1) by Blythe Bowman Proulx (2013: 111-125) entitled ‘Archaeological Site Looting in “Glocal” Perspective: Nature, Scope, and Frequency’, that debates the nature of archaeological looting on a global scale. The abstract is below:
“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.”
This is a strong article helping to document first hand experience of looting at archaeological sites from around the world. It is well worth a read and presents a problem in context. Proulx’s (2013: 123) devastating conclusion is that…
“archaeological site looting is a globally pervasive, commonplace, iterative, and not decreasing appreciably is a critical finding. Looting- and, consequently, the role it may play in the antiquities trade- can no longer be dismissed as simply exaggerated, nor can concerns about looting be cast off as mere products of scaremongering archaeologists with overblown imaginations and thinly veiled preservationist agendas.”
Context is king, and without this we risk losing cultural heritage and understanding on a massive scale due to the looting of archaeological artefacts and sites worldwide.