Unemployed Iraqis join in Looting of Antiquities

He added, “Some offer us ancient metallic and gold coins they got from archaeological areas, but we advise them to hand them over to the competent archaeological authorities or to the security services.”

However, Yasiri pointed out that not all excavations are done with the purpose of selling artifacts, as “some explorers search for small artifacts used for religious and magical rituals.”

Besides the excavations carried out by individuals, some armed groups like the Islamic State had excavated in the city of Mosul and some of Baghdad's northern regions before they were expelled, for the purpose of smuggling and selling them to antiquities traders.

Halim Yasiri, an archaeological researcher from Babil, told Al-Monitor, “Iraqi antiquities represent the history of Mesopotamia, but Iraqis are neglecting them. There are illegal excavations in the absence of surveillance techniques such as cameras and sensors to alert [the authorities] if people sabotage archaeological sites.”

In 2015, the Iraqi Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities had launched a national campaign for the protection of Iraqi archaeology. This campaign included the documentation of archaeological sites, while encouraging people to report any archaeological materials they may find near their homes.

Yet the pillaging and vandalizing of archaeological sites and antiquities continue. Perhaps Iraq could benefit from more developed countries’ expertise in the exploration, protection and control of archaeological sites. However, this knowledge will not be able to contribute to the preservation of this heritage unless proper security and investment guarantees are provided.

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