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Re: Fw: Major looting now occurring in Egypt

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  • George Thomas
    Bob, I will use this thread to bolster my notes on looting.   Thanks for truly useful thoughts.  And Deborah, you truly asked the right questions. In the
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 2, 2011
      Bob, I will use this thread to bolster my notes on "looting."  Thanks for truly useful thoughts.  And Deborah, you truly asked the right questions.
      In the 80s we at Ft. Hood produced something we half-facetiously dubbed our "pot-hunter-hunting guide."  Clearly your citation of "subsistence looting" both raises our level a good bit, and extends the subject to the matter of Third World site looting.  Feel free to fill me in on some of the "substantial literature" on looting.  I failed to follow up over the past decades.
      I worked in Mexico, and I can confirm what you surmise about subsistence looting there, as you observed it in Egypt.
      Re. instability as it contributes to looting, yes, and I've observed both on a large scale and a small scale, the attitudes of people confronted by the need to preserve museums and tangible heritage, while they are out of work or scrounging for subsistence.  Somehow an anthropological take on all this might mention the bottom falling out of systems for redistribution of goods/services in modern states, etc. etc.  To me, "subsistence looting" is a no-brainer.  It will happen as people perceive increasingly dire basic circumstances and, yes, "values in frustration," and the denial of "perceived wants and needs."
      Anyone care to expand this beyond Ward Goodenough and 1960s applied anthropology?
      Re: Fw: Major looting now occurring in Egypt
          Posted by: "Bob Muckle" bmuckle@... canadianarchaeologist
          Date: Tue Feb 1, 2011 2:12 pm ((PST))

      There is actually a substantial literature on looting. 'Subsistence looting' is often used to describe the situation where people start looting sites as a near last resort. They don't usually want to do it; many acknowledge they are contribiuting the loss of their own heritage, but feel they are left with no other option. This is the kind of looting, I think, that continues today in Iraq. The looting in Iraq did not start with subsistence looting, but as the traditional lifeways broke down, many Iraqis turned to looting their own sites. Subsistence looting, I believe is also common in some areas of Mesoamerican and South America.

      In Iraq, the initial looting was targeted. The looters knew what they were doing and it was big business. But it changed to subsistence looting as well as a means for some of the ethnic groups to obtain guns. It got to the stage in Iraq that even a couple of years ago (and maybe still), looted artifacts were being traded for guns.

      What we are seeing in Egypt, I think, is neither organized looting or subsistence looting. I think it is similar to what we see all over the world in times chaos - people taking advantage. It seems to me that the cases we have seen so far at the museum as well at some of the more remote sites, is that some people are just taking advantage of the situation....without giving it much thought. It reminds me of when a major sports team wins a championship there is often a small riot, in which people loot any store around.   

      Unfortunately, the looting in Egypt will probably continue for a while yet. I imagine, as there were in the weeks leading up to Iraq, collectors and antiquity dealers are putting in their orders, and getting ready for an influx of Egyptian antiquities. If the looting continues we can expect much of it to show up in London, New York, and Tokyo.

      I've worked in Egypt, and know that there are many sites that are quite remote and unguarded.

      Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in power around the world who prioritize wealth over tangible heritage.

      Also unfortunately, the looting in Egypt was so predictable. I expect, but don't know, that the well-known artifacts from Cario and Alexandria will be protected. But I also expect that whatever happens politically and socially in the short term, looting of remote sites will increase as some take advantage of the instability.

      My two cents on Tuesday afternoon.


      >>> Deborah Shepherd <deborah.shepherd@...> 02/01/11 1:36 PM >>>
      I'm curious about the motivations for looting. I don't think we can expect to control looting until we understand why it is happening. Do looters loot for profit (and is it easy enough then for them to sell the items they've looted)? Are all looters knowledgeable about the black market or just assuming they'll figure it out later? Do some people instead loot out of anger--because they hate the ruling regime and want to cause it injury?

      I read somewhere this morning that looters had damaged a newly renovated museum gift shop, but the curator, as he expressed it, was glad the looters didn't "realize" they were in the gift shop and not the museum. I wonder if that's true. Museum pieces would be hard to sell, but looters ought to know that gift shop jewelry, for example, could be much more easily sold and yet give some value in return. Well, just some thoughts. I'm not sure that all looters are looking for big profit, but that seems to be the common assumption.

      Re: Fw: Major looting now occurring in Egypt
          Posted by: "Kip Waldo" kwaldo@... kipandfei
          Date: Tue Feb 1, 2011 3:23 pm ((PST))

      Unfortunately there are elements that will try to take advantage of such situations - such as the looting of current sites. Hopefully the military will be deployed, but I doubt it. Maybe the populace in those areas will follow the example set by people in Alexandria

      A number of the "looters' In the museum in Alexandria who were  apprehended and tuned over to the military were subsequently identified as being members of the police force. The assumption being that they were trying to foment enough discord that there would be a call for their return to the street. That didn't happen, as people ringed the museum and then the military was called in to guard it.

      From: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com [mailto:SACC-L@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of George Thomas
      Sent: Tuesday, February 01, 2011 2:25 PM
      To: sacc-l@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [SACC-L] Fw: Major looting now occurring in Egypt

      Re. the looting in Egypt, this includes massive amounts of site vandalism, and comes after news that members of the public had joined with Army units to try to protect some of the antiquities. There seems to be some form of "middle class" (?) public support for Egyptology, but unfortunately it also seems that the political upheaval has unleashed the same kind of mass looting that we saw almost a decade ago in Iraq.
      Over the decades archaeology has certainly taken a beating.  Ankor Wat in the 60s-70s, unpublicized archaeology that must have been affected in Korea, Iraq and now the left (west) wing of the Fertile Crescent. In WWII there existed a set of regulations (their identity and numerical designation escape me..... I suppose I could look it up) that governed the treatment of "cultural patrimony" in times of war. For one thing, we see how effective all this was, what with the hoarding of art and artifacts and ongoing legal actions in Europe. But the US military appears to have taken a more active role in the efforts than they do today.
      "Fog of war and all that?"  How easy it is for us to assume that regulations will be followed while "there's a war on.

      --- On Mon, 1/31/11, Hester <secocreek@...<mailto:secocreek%40SWTEXAS.NET>> wrote:

      From: Hester <secocreek@...<mailto:secocreek%40SWTEXAS.NET>>
      Subject: Fw: Major looting now occurring in Egypt
      Date: Monday, January 31, 2011, 9:26 AM

      Erwin Roemer forwarded this to me this morning.  It is from a professor at UAB (see bottom of email).

          Things are escalating.  I just received this information
      directly (on Facebook) from Egyptologists and members of the Supreme
      Council for Antiquities (SCA) who are witnessing the situation:

      "Verified by Mohammad Megahed: Immense damages to Abusir and
      Saqqara, all magazines and tombs which were sealed were entered last
      night. Only Imhotep Museum and adjacent central magazines protected by
      the military. In Abusir all tombs opened. large gangs digging day and
      night everywhere"

      The damage is *vast*.

      It seems that some of the storage magazines at South Saqqara and
      Abusir have been looted-hard to say how much was taken and the extent of
      the robbing.  SCA representatives are only today able to check on the
      museums/storage magazines, but early reports suggest major looting.  If
      you all could please contact anyone who can help and put them on "high
      alert" for Old Kingdom remains and Egyptian antiquities in general, and
      please spread the word to law enforcement officials worldwide.  Egyptian
      looters (who may be encouraged by outside Egypt entities) may try to use
      the general confusion to get things out of the country.

      Other bad news: prisons in Qena and Armant (next to Luxor) have
      been emptied, so people fear major looting will occur in that region.

      Reports still abound for major looting in the Alexandria
      Museum---but those reports are hard to confirm.  The violence has been
      worse in Alexandria, and there have been few police reports there.

      Things appear to be getting very bad, and this suggests they
      will get much worse.

      Best wishes,

      Sarah H. Parcak, PhD, FSA
      Assistant Professor, Dept. of History and Anthropology
      Director, Laboratory for Global Observation
      University of Alabama at Birmingham
      1401 University Blvd
      Birmingham, AL 35294
      Phone: (205) 996-7982
      Fax:     (205) 996-7977

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