Planet Earth

Networks of Plunder

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMar 19, 2009 3:58 AM

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That's the title of this astonishing story in the current issue of Science News. Antiquities trafficking is the bane of archaeology, yet it appears that archaeologists in the Middle East and elsewhere are playing an unwitting role when they employ local laborers for excavations. (The first generation of southwestern archaeologists learned this lesson the hard way, and unfortunately, they're still paying for it.) The article reveals an intricate underworld peopled more by anonymous middlemen than mobsters. Few archaeologists or law enforcement officials rarely see

the chain of secretive relationships that turns looted pieces of the past into scrupulously documented keepsakes for affluent buyers.

When a shoe stand in the middle of Jeruselum is part of an illegal, multi-billion dollar market, then Ebay and a famous auction house aren't your biggest problems.

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