During the early 1800's the world went mad for Egyptian artifacts; whether to see them, own them, or find them. In this time many people were hired by museums to get the the most rare artifacts they could. One man, Giovanni Belzoni, was the most prolific when finding Egyptian antiquities. Then he was seen as a great explorer, a treasure hunter, and the finder of the treasure which he was hunting for. Many are thankful for his findings (bust of Ramesses II, Abu Simbel which is still known as “Belzoni's Tomb”), but by today's standing, he is seen by some as a looter. In a sense he, all who were digging and finding artifacts in this time, were similar to those who looted the tombs of the pharaohs. When those in the 1800's would open a tomb, expecting to find riches beyond their wildest dreams, but ended up seeing it had been pillaged; those who looted irreplaceable artifacts robbed something more than riches.
The culture, the valuable information that can only be taken away from items left in tombs, is the true harm looters bring to us. For example, the chair in King Tuts tomb that depicts his wife touching him (image below) shows us that he indeed loved her, that he was a caring person, much like his father, who is shown playing with his children (image below). If that tomb had been looted, everything we know about King Tut, like his age (because there were artifacts that seemed they were a child's) would have been lost to the ages. In other instances where there is no structure like a pyramid or the like, the artifact is underground.
Although it really is amazing how much we have evolved to treasure these artifacts. It is a great contrast between the finding of Egyptian artifacts in the early 1800's and in the early 1900's; King Tut's tomb to be more specific. This famous tomb has to be one of Egypt's national treasures, because unlike the Rosetta Stone, or all the other Egyptian artifacts in museums around the world, he is still in the desert, he is still in Egypt. Shortly after the opening of the tomb, it seemed as though things were missing and the prime suspect was Carter (he claimed the tomb was opened before, but this was highly doubtable, he even illegally entered without waiting for Egyptian officials). “"All objects from the tomb should be in Egypt, and if they're not in Egypt, they didn't get out legally,” said Dr. Loeben, a German Egyptologist.
Most recently, there has been a massive loss of culture; Syrian culture to be more specific. In recent news reports, it has been the terror group who call themselves ISIS that have not only been looting but destroying. It began as the bombing of archaeological sites in Syria which held ancient architecture, but then “what isn't destroyed is being quietly sold on a black market that reaches Europe and even the U.S.” Not only are they destroying a vibrant ancient culture (most likely their own), but they always have been giving licenses to looters so they are able to dig in their territory, and "If you find an artifact, you take 80 percent and ISIS takes 20 percent," said an informant for CBS news. This level of cultural destruction has rivaled what happened during WWII, when the Nazi's took artifacts for their own. What really makes this heartbreaking is that unlike the artifacts the Nazi's looted that were eventually recovered, what ISIS has done, has taken it to a level at which we can never hope to get back those artifacts, those environments, what made that culture that culture.
With all the information we have learned by past and/or dead cultures, the artifacts play an essential part. From arrow heads, to the most brilliant stone, it all holds answers to who these people were in life. But looters are not only in days of old, people who steal or rob other are looters because everything we have are artifacts; your shoes, your spoons, even the device on which you are reading this on is an artifact. An artifact is anything man made, and those man has made in the past are just as precious as those we have now.
Please feel free to comment (or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org) on what you thought of the blog, or other physical anthropological subjects you would like me to cover.