Iraq, Syria, and Jordan have been the home of warring empires and biblical prophets for thousands of years. They contain some of the most extraordinary archaeological sites in the world. Or at least they did, as the Washington Post reports, the looting that was once particular to conflict zones has now spread to Jordan:
In recent weeks, grave-robbers here dug into 2,000-year-old tombs right in front of a house rented by archaeologists. Dozens of shallow pits now mark the spot. The field is littered with cracked, carved stones that once covered the dead. […]
In Jordan, there is a long tradition of “treasure hunting.” But the gold fever driving a surge in tomb-raiding in the Hashemite Kingdom is the worst in years. No one knows exactly how they started, but rumors have been flying from rough kebab shops to fancy dinner parties of buried treasure, of Ottoman gold and Byzantine jewels, of jars heavy with Roman coins.
It sounds nutty. But it is destroying Jordan’s rich cultural heritage, piece by piece, one looted Bronze-era funerary relic at a time.
A spate of robberies in Jordan is probably minor compared with the systematic looting that has been going on in Iraq and Syria. National Geographic shows two shocking photos of the Seleucid city of Apamea before and after it was plundered for loot. A team of modern day “Monuments Men” are fighting to save as much of the priceless heritage of the Levant as they can, but it seems to be a losing battle, particularly when those sites that aren’t being robbed are often being obliterated. Crusader castles are once again being used for their original defensive purposes, and are suffering the consequences.