Let’s call it “cultural thievery” to be polite, but the looting of these historic archaeological sites in Egypt that date back to 2030 B.C. may be one of the most tragic outcomes in this war against ISIS. The trade in stolen antiquities has been flourishing since time immemorial, but now appears to be tied to other more modern criminal activities like drug trafficking, and arms running, and may even be an income source for ISIS. Hopefully, satellite technology will transform this search for looted artifacts so that they can be preserved and not be “lost” as they become financial booty for the terrorists.
Ironically, access to digital mapping of these sites also serves as a “roadmap” for prospective looters. Google Earth is perhaps one of the most commonly used tools. Once the looters are able to confirm the locations of the sites through sources on the ground, they can then proceed with other modern tools such as metal detectors and geophysical testing equipment to begin their work. Satellite technology becomes an enabler in this process.
So human ingenuity in the use of newly created twenty-first technologies can lead us to untold historic treasures. Man’s motivation in the use of this newly acquired wealth is still very much a human choice.