BAR 40:04, Jul/Aug 2014
Archaeological Views: Investigating the Crime Scene: Looting and Ancient Coins
Looting is the scourge of archaeology. The act of looting damages archaeological sites and limits our understanding of the past; once objects are removed from their original contexts without record, their associations can never be reconstructed. The problem is analogous to a tainted crime scene. Archaeologists are detectives: Archaeologists reconstruct the past by analyzing the relationships of objects to one another in different occupation horizons as detectives recreate crimes by looking at the relationships between weapons, footprints, fingerprints, broken glass and other evidence. When something has been taken away from a historical site (the crime scene), the object is divorced from its relationship with other objects, and its utility for the writing of history (solving the case) has been diminished.