24 March 2011

Rampant looting of Latin American archaeology

Crime like this has been going on for generations - perhaps even for millennia.  But with modern technology/tools the problem is getting worse.  A Guardian story focuses on Latin America,but the same thing occurs worldwide.
For archaeologists, the horror here is not in Moche iconography, which you see in pottery and mural fragments, but in the hundreds of thousands of trenches scarring the landscape: a warren of man-made pillage. Gangs of looters, known as huaqueros, are ransacking Peru's heritage to illegally sell artefacts to collectors and tourists...

Mirador, the cradle of Mayan civilisation in Guatemala, was being devastated, it said. "The entire Peten region has been sacked in the past 20 years and every year hundreds of archaeological sites are being destroyed by organised looting crews seeking Maya antiquities for sale on the international market."

Northern Peru, home to the Moche civilisation which flourished from AD100-800, had been reduced to a "lunar landscape" by looter trenches across hundreds of miles. "An estimated 100,000 tombs – over half the country's known sites – have been looted," the report said...

Most huaqueros are farmers supplementing meagre incomes. Montes de Oca, one of three police officers tasked with environmental protection in a region of a million people, said he was overwhelmed. "I've been doing this for 28 years. There are three of us and one truck. It's insufficient but we do everything possible."
This point is probably valid:
"One of the biggest problems is the disconnect between local communities and management of the sites. We think locals should get at least 30% of revenues [from tourists]." Only then, said Morgan, would cultural treasures fom the Moche and other civilisations be saved.

1 comment:

  1. I remeber reading an article in which someone had gone down to South America to see the tombs and stuff, only to find looted tombs where the raiders had taken away all of the valuables (mainly pottery and jewelry) and then threw out the mummies, most of them exposed to the desert. At one point, he was offered a mummy to buy, but he refused.


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