Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Looting in Jordan

Looting at Bab Edh Dhra, JordanAs many of you know, Mo is examining different laws that countries have to help stop looting in the Eastern Mediterranean. Yesterday we drove down to the Dead Sea area known as Ghor es-Safi (Arabic Al Ghawr). Entirely below sea level and bordered by steep escarpments, the Ghor is part of the Great Rift Valley complex. People have inhabited the area for thousands of years and yesterday we were checking out the Early Bronze Age cemetery sites at Bab Edh Dhra and the EB site of Numeira. This is the pock-marked lunar landscape that once housed an Early Bronze Age burial ground and is now a looted mess of holes. Here is Mo standing in one of the looter's holes. They can be quite deep (if the looters think they have found a shaft tomb) or rather shallow (if the looters decide there is nothing there and move on to the next hole).
Yo is holding part of a very typical Early Bronze Age bowl. During this period the dead were buried with a variety of grave goods, which included these types of pots. While Mo was conducting research for her dissertation in Israel she came across many of these bowls for sale in the various shops in Jerusalem. Part of her current research is trying to figure out how these bowls looted from this cemetery end up for sale in Jerusalem. How does a small juglet like this:
End up in a shop window like this?We had hoped to visit a few other sites but we spent a lot of time at Bab Edh Dhra, the Pre-Pottery Neolithic site of Dhra and then a huge (400m+) wall on a promontory. And we also spent some time looking for Yo's passport, which had dropped out of his shirt pocket at some point earlier in the day. Luckily we found it lying on the side of the road (looking like it had been run over by a truck). Whew, dodged that bureaucratic nightmare (getting the passport replaced, getting a new visa for Jordan and on and on).


Sue said...

I forgot how depressing the view of the site can be. I remember just standing there looking at it from the side of the road for ages (course, all I saw were the humeri, fingers, toes, etc -- eye of the beholder I guess). Makes me glad for the collection we have here, broken and mangled as it may be.

MMK and YMR said...

I have some images of the scattered human remains, amazingly sad. It was a good day, but it was depressing. We did think of all of the good work that you all are doing on what remains.

Dr. David E. Graves said...

This brought back memories of my visit in 2007 as well. What a raping of the archaeological land!! We have real problems with night diggers at our excavations at Tall el-Hammam, Jordan as well. We have security but such a large site. Looters ruined a beautiful Roman floor in just one night looking for gold because of the find a few year earlier at Tall Nimrin. The modern road was widened this past season and took out part of the remaining aqueduct that was simply bulldozed in the name of progress. The sooner we can excavate the site and preserver the artifacts the better.