Thursday, September 18, 2008

Slight Correction on What We Know about Looting from Available Satellite Evidence

In my Aug. 30 post, I quoted my colleague McGuire Gibson to the effect that satellite imagery from 2006, 2007, and 2008 purchased by the Oriental Institute disproves the claim that looting declined severely in 2004. This turns out to be a misstatement: the Oriental Institute did have images of the same sites from 2003 and 2008 but not from 2006 or 2007. Images from the 2005-2007 period are being purchased, however, so we should have some more information soon, based on satellite analysis, about whether for those particular sites looting continued during the post-2004 period.

If the question is whether looting has ceased in Iraq, however, we do not need time-series satellite photos to prove that it has not. In addition to the other evidence mentioned in other posts to this blog, there is the image above of Tell Shmid, taken this year and posted on Google Earth. The entire site is pitted, and there are fresh holes on the south west side of the tell.
Again, as I noted previously, no one site's condition, or even that of several sites, can serve as a proxy for determining the degree or rate of looting for the entirety of the country. To determine that we would need to be able to compare, year by year, the satellite or aerial imagery for at least a representative sample of sites.

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