Professor Elizabeth Stone at Stony Brook University in New York has been using high resolution satellite imagery to look at the damage to archaeological sites in southern Iraq. The New Scientist ("Iraq's legacy of looted treasures is revealed", March 2, 2008) has presented a summary of her findings:
Stone examined almost 10,000 square kilometres of imagery, containing some 1900 archaeological sites. By scrutinising the darkness and sharpness of shadows, she was able to identify holes made by looters and whether they were pre-existing or new. In this way she was able to assess the severity of looting before and after the war.It is sadly all too easy to understand the material implications of such looting. But what about the intellectual consequences with so many contexts destroyed?
She says 15.75 square kilometres of land have been intensively looted, including 213 archaeological sites. This is an area many times greater than all the archeological excavations undertaken in southern Iraq (Antiquity, vol 82, p 125). Stone estimates that hundreds of thousands of tablets, coins, cylinder seals, statues, terracottas, bronzes and other objects have been stolen.