Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Looters destroy 2000-year-old archaeological site in Sudan in search for gold


The trench and spoil heaps [Getty]
Gold seekers with giant diggers have destroyed the 2,000-year-old historical site of Jabal Maragha deep in the desert of Bayouda, some 270 kilometres north of the capital Khartoum (The New Arab, ' Looters destroy 2000-year-old Sudan archaeological site in search for gold'    25 August, 2020 ). The damage was discovered when a team of archaeologists arrived at the ancient site last month and saw that the site had vanished. They found two mechanical diggers and five men at work in a vast trench 17 metres deep, and 20 metres long. The site, dating from the Meroitic period between 350 BC and 350 AD, is on sandstone in which there are layers of pyrite, which presumably they mistook for gold.
The archaeologists were accompanied by a police escort, who took the treasure-hunters to a police station but were freed within hours. "They should have been put in jail and their machines confiscated. There are laws," said Mahmoud Al-Tayeb, a former expert from Sudan's antiquities department. Instead, the men left without charge and their diggers were released too. "It is the saddest thing," said Tayeb, who is also a professor of archaeology at the University of Warsaw. Tayeb believes that the real culprit is the workers' employer, someone who can pull strings and circumvent justice.
Sudan's archaeologists warn that this was not a unique case, but part of a systematic looting of ancient sites. Now, in hundreds of remote places ranging from cemeteries to temples, diggers are hunting for anything to sell on the antiquities market. At Sai, a 12-kilometre-long river island in the Nile, hundreds of graves have been ransacked and destroyed by looters. Some of them date back to the times of the pharaohs. "Out of a thousand more or less well-known sites in Sudan, at least a hundred have been destroyed or damaged," said Hatem al-Nour, Sudan's director of antiquities and museums. He added that the lack of security at the sites made them easy targets for looters.

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