No explanation is given as to why the site is now out of bounds, though we are told that "a crater north-east of the Old Babylonian houses was noted – this was caused by a rocket in February 2008. It was reported by the site guard that three rockets landed at Ur in April 2008; of these, one fell near the guard’s house and another some 23 m south-east of the ziggurat." Not exactly the ambience for looters either.
2. Eridu: "The visit began at a watchtower presumed to have been erected by the Italians in late 2003." The site is fenced in and has two site guards assigned to it.
3. Uruk: "There is no evidence of looting at the site which is protected by 15 SPF (Special Protection Force) personnel (one of whom arrived to check the presence of the inspection team) and an on-site guard (the German institutional system is able to maintain constant payments for the on-site guard)." The assessment team surely knew beforehand that this site was protected at this very high level, yet they chose to visit it anyway -- just as they chose to visit Ur (which a British Museum team had visited a year earlier).
4. Tell al- 'Ubaid: "There are no designated guards for Ubaid but guards from
5. Tallil airbase: one of the largest military airbases in the middle east, it contains two sites within its perimeter. Unsurprisingly, neither was looted.
6. Tell el- 'Oueilli: "The site was looted in 2003 and there are extensive remains of looter pits, now filled with sand, visible across much of the mound. There is no evidence of recent looting." Donny George believes that because this is a prehistoric site that produces none of the most collectable material, it may have been abandoned by looters once they figured that out.
Tell Senkereh (Larsa): "The site was extensively looted in 2003; at the end of that year a guard tower was erected and the presence of a guard deterred further looting. There are at least five designated guards for the site, based at Nasiriya, but none was present during the inspection visit." Again, an important site, looted extensively for many months, but now highly protected unlike most of the other sites in Iraq.
Tell al-Hiba (
9. Tell Lahm (Kisiga): "The south-western side and summit of the mound are covered by looter holes – pithos and bath-tub burials were the main attraction for the looters." "The appearance of the puddled mud in the bottom of the looters’ holes was similar to that in the bottom of the military installations, suggesting that the looters’ holes were not recent and probably dated from 2003. The presence of US forces at Tell Lahm is demonstrated by numerous military food packages scattered on the surface. The site is unfenced. A large number of SPF personnel arrived in three vehicles after the team had been at the site for an hour." Again, a site frequented by US forces and patrolled by SPF is by no means the norm. The SPF has been having trouble even getting gasoline for its vehicles.
Take-home lesson: If you want to protect a site from looting, build a base nearby. Or, more realistically, hire site guards, deploy site police, or pay the local tribe to guard it. Has the US done any of these things, or helped the Iraqis do them? On a countrywide basis, the answer is certainly no; there have been some local or regional programs over the years, but information on those is hard to come by. It would be good public relations for the US to lay out what it has done, and what it plans to do.