Saturday, April 02, 2011

What It Takes to Effectively Police Archaeological Sites

This report discusses the arrests of three men caught digging an archaeological site in Italy. The banal fact that even in relatively rich nations there are going to be looters, especially if the objects to be uncovered are potentially as valuable as the carnelian these tombaroli found, is of little interest. What is highly illuminating, though, is what this operation shows about how complex it is to do successful site policing. Guards on site are the least of it. The site inspectors for the region must undertake preventive patrols assisted by helicopters (in this case from the equivalent of the Coast Guard) and by the carabinieri. Pull out any one of these elements and the chances of stopping looters drops precipitously. In Egypt, of course, the SCA seems to have had little or no policing capacity of its own, and the Interior Ministry -- the equivalent of the carabinieri -- melted away once the revolution began.

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