In the new TAARII Newsletter of the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq, Issue no. 3-1, spring 2008, Carrie Hritz provides more concrete evidence of the extent of looting in southern Iraq. Hritz looked only at a 600-square kilometer area centered on one site, Isin, capital of a dynasty that ruled Babylonia from around 1100 -1000 BC. She was able to obtain time-series data for winters of 2002, 2003, and 2006, as well as from the mid-1990s, for this area.
The good news: the imagery revealed sixty additional possible archaeological sites beyond the 56 that had been identified through ground surveys.
The bad news: "site looting was widespread, and it increased between 2002 and 2006." On the site of Isin itself, "the 1960s and 1990s imagery does not show any visible looting damage. But in 2003, distinctive round lootingholes appear covering 37 hectares of the site. By 2006, looter holes expanded to cover 69 of the 193 hectares, more than doubling the area of damage within this three year span." (That would make for an annual rate of roughly 7% between 2003 and 2006, just slightly less than the 10% that archaeologists had been estimating for the country as a whole.) Many of these holes are on the newly detected sites, which means those pristine sites have been forever despoiled and whatever contextual information they might have yielded is probably gone forever as well. "Sites never visited by archaeological survey are subject to the same rates of looting as those known from archaeological survey."
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