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Facts on Archaeological Removals and Looting

Facts on Archaeological Removals and Looting

Archaeological looting continues to be a problem around the world. Criminals have found that items found at archaeological sights can fetch large amounts of money from collectors around the world. Items found at sites are often unique, and therefore, extremely valuable. Items can also be made out of precious metal or include gemstones, which significantly adds to the value of the piece.
 
 
Due to the nature of the crime, the general public is robbed from learning about historical moments from the past.  Items removed from archaeological sites tell a story about a specific moment in time. Those stories are vital for people that wish to better understand their culture. Archaeological items are supposed to be under ownership of the public so that they can be viewed at museums and at archaeological sites. When individuals steal for archaeological sites, they are said to be stealing valuable history from citizens.
 
 
Items from archaeological sites are vital for each culture to help preserve,and learn from their past. The reality, however, is that those items are extremely valuable and entire criminal networks are built around stealing them. Archaeological removals happen with great frequency in sites around the world.
 
 
Individuals caught stealing the artifacts can face prosecution, but it can sometimes be difficult to catch those responsible. In some countries, officials are complacent with the crime and often allow individuals to escape prosecution in return for a payoff. Many archaeological sites are also buried deep in forests and other areas that can be difficult to reach.
 
 
While many believe that archaeological sites that are difficult to reach would prevent criminals from stealing, they would be wrong. The archaeological sites that require complicated travel are often the ones that are targeted by thieves intent on stealing artifacts. Sites found deep in the forest are the ones that are most difficult to protect. In fact, some sites may not even have been explored by professionals before they are looted of many valuable artifacts.
 
 
In many countries, stealing from archaeological sites is considered gainful employment by individuals that would otherwise have no income. Many times, sites are located close to poor regions. Criminal networks will recruit individuals to help in stealing artifacts from sites buried in the forests. Generally, locals are chosen because they are familiar with the area and likely with the archaeological site as well. Stealing from sites often goes undetected until long after the crime has taken place.

Famous Cases of Looting

Yamashitas Gold

Yamashitas Gold

Yamashita's Gold included many items of value that were stolen by Japaneses soldiers during World War II. It is believed that after the treasure was stolen, it was then hidden in secret underground locations throughout the Philippines. Most of Yamashita's Gold remains unaccounted for to this day and there are many theories as to where the treasure is currently located.
 
 
The treasure was named after a general from the Japanese forces. He carried the nickname of "the Tiger of Malaya," and he was eventually executed for war crimes.  The legend of Yamashita's Gold has continued to intrigue treasure hunters. In fact there have been lawsuits involving treasure hunters and government officials. Those lawsuits often stemmed from misinformation allegedly provided by the Japanese government and others that are assumed to have been complacent in the crimes.
 
 
According to the legend of the treasure, it was looted. Like many other famous cases of looting, the treasure is still unaccounted for. There are some that claim that the treasure is a part of a conspiracy theory. 
 
 
Some believe that the United States forces intercepted information on the treasure and took possession of a majority of the treasure. In addition, there are people that claim the treasure still lays buried in the Philippines, and still others that think the treasure sunk in the waters off of the Philippines.
 
 
Regardless of where the treasure is actually hidden, the fact remains that it has never been found, or if it was, nobody has ever admitted to finding it. Treasure hunters continue to search for the treasure and the controversy lives on.

Looting During the Iraq War

Looting During the Iraq War

The Iraq War started in 2003 when U.S. forces invaded Iraq.  During the war, many artifacts were looted from museums, palaces, places of worship, and other structures. It is believed that thousands of items still remain lost to looters. In addition, many artifacts were destroyed through munitions such as bombs or by tanks. These factors make it difficult to ascertain exactly what the Iraqi people have lost due to looting.
 
 
 
The Iraqi people have lost many valuable artifacts such as historical items stolen from museums and houses of worship. Those items are irreplaceable and have historical value that far outweighs monetary value. Individual Iraqi people have lost items that were of historical significance to their family and to their culture.
 
 
 
Looting often occurred in personal homes and the Iraqi people were often unable to protect themselves from thieves. There were also famous cases of looting that resulted form the Iraqi War. For example, the Iraqi National Museum was subject to looting because of the military, law enforcement and Iraqi people's inability to protect the structure. That museum contained artifacts and artwork that was of major significance to the Iraqi people.
 
 
 
When the Iraqi National Museum was looted during the Iraq War, valuable and historic items went missing. Those artifacts are likely to remain unaccounted for due to the inability to track such items. Looting of archaeological sites continues to be a problem in Iraq and other war-torn countries. 
 
 
Looters take advantage of the many distractions caused by war. Law enforcement, military personal and even the Iraqi people tend to be focused on efforts that directly affect the outcome of the war. There is simply not enough manpower available to protect artifacts, archaeological sites and museums from the acts of looters and others intent on damaging such valuable items.
 
 
 
There have been increased efforts by the Iraqi people and many others to recover items looted during and after the Iraqi War. Amazingly, many items have been recovered due to those efforts. However, many items remain unaccounted for because of the many ways that criminals are able to hide such artifacts. 
 
 
There is a vast underground network centered on making money off of artifacts. Many times, artifacts end up in the hands of private collectors and those items remain lost forever.
 
 
 
Like many wars, the Iraq War resulted in the loss of many valuable and historical artifacts. The loss to the Iraqi people is immeasurable. The Iraqi people will likely never recover many of the stolen items, which results in the permanent loss of artifacts that are a large part of the history and culture of the people

Looting During the New York Blackout of 1977

Looting During the New York Blackout of 1977

During the 1977 blackout in New York, many structures were looted or destroyed. Unlike other well-known blackouts, the 1977 blackout included many acts of of violence, including arson and other acts that cause extensive property damage. Previous blackouts in the city had not resulted in such violence and many people were shocked at citizens’ reactions to the 1977 blackout.
 
 
The 1977 blackout began due to the results of a lightening strike, and by the time the lights came back on, the blackout had resulted in mass looting and other crimes which caused massive damage to businesses. Some of those businesses never recovered, while others no longer wanted to run businesses in a city that had turned against them.
 
 
The crimes that took place that night have been attributed to intervening factors that worked in concurrence with the blackout. At the time, there was a sense of uneasiness around the city, which was attributed to the Son of Sam murders. The economic situation was also causing stress for a lot of families that were suddenly finding themselves unable to afford the essentials. 
 
 
Added to those stressors was the weather of the evening, which some witnesses describe as sweltering. The time at which the blackout occurred may have also been a factor, as many business owners had already left for the day and were unable to protect their property during the 1977 blackout, as opposed to other blackouts that had begun during business hours. 
 
 
The 1977 blackout resulted in the arrest of over four thousand looters. In most cases, looters were attempting to steal property in order to sell it for financial gain. In fact, the blackout was only for one night and many people would have had the supplies to survive the evening without electricity.
 
 
The mayhem that ensued during the blackout may have been caused by many intervening factors, but those factors did not change the result. People on the streets say that it was a dangerous and violent scenario in which everyone seemed to be out for themselves. The mob mentality added to the violence.  
 
 
The cost to city residents was estimated to be around three hundred million dollars. The amount of property looted has never been determined exactly, but in a few blocks, over seventy-five stores were completely looted.

Looting During Rodney King Riots of 1992

Looting During Rodney King Riots of 1992

Rodney King was the victim of police brutality after he failed to comply with their orders to remain still. The Rodney King riots took place after officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King, which was caught on videotape by a citizen who happened to be in the area. 
 
 
The videotape aired on many news programs worldwide and sparked outrage among many citizens. It was obviously a case of police brutality and many people claimed that race was the motivation in the beating and in the Rodney King Riots. 
 
 
Even with the videotape, it was not easy to decipher all of the details involved in the incident. It is clear that the officers acted inappropriately but one cannot feel their fear by watching the videotape. Individuals can also not completely grasp the pain felt by Rodney Kind while he endured the beating. 
 
 
Yet, those factors combined to cause the Rodney King riots, which included looting, arson and other violent crimes that took place in Los Angeles and other cities across the country.
 
 
The footage of the beating showed King receiving over fifty hits by police batons in addition to other actions that constitute assault. The public was outraged when the tape aired. Upon seeing the officers acquitted, the Rodney King riot immediately erupted, spreading to other cities across the nation. The Rodney King riots resulted in at least fifty deaths, over two thousand injuries and damages to over three thousand structures.
 
 
During the Rodney King riot, many individuals participated in mass looting across the city. In fact, looting resulted in millions of dollars of losses in many cities involved in the riots. After days of violence in the Rodney King riots, King spoke before a crowd on television, begging people to try and get along since the riots would not change anything. He also said that they could get justice but that the rioting and looting were not the way to get it.
 
 
After the acquittal and subsequent Rodney King riots, several of the officers did, in fact, face charges in which they were found guilty. Indeed, the Federal charges resulted in over two years in Federal prison for two of the officers.  In addition, the Government put a nationwide focus on the training of police officers so that events like this could be avoided in the future. 
 
 
King was awarded three million dollars in a civil suit, but the damage caused by the Rodney King riots greatly exceeded that number. The looting alone resulted in losses in the millions of dollars.

Native American Archaeological Sites

Native American Archaeological Sites

Native American archaeological sites are often looted by criminal enterprises that wish to make money off of the unique artifacts discovered at sites. In addition, the artifacts are often made out of precious materials which can add significantly to the value of an item.
 
 
Some individuals loot Native American archaeological sites simply because they are fascinated by the culture and history of Native Americans. In those cases, looters are simply stealing artifacts for themselves without the added incentive of financial gain. No matter what the motive, the results are the same. 
 
 
Key points on culture and history of an entire people are lost. Those artifacts may never be returned to the rightful owners, which means that some questions about their history remain unanswered. It takes just one artifact to explain details such as manufacturing during a specific time period. Each and every artifact at Native American archaeological sites is vital to the culture and people.
 
 
One of the most common looted items at Native American archaeological sites is pots. Native Americans are famous for their beautiful, detailed and innovative pottery. One artifact can result in a financial windfall for the person that loots the object due to a high demand for such artifacts. Yet, one cannot be charged with looting if they are on private land which they own, or land which they have permission to explore. 
 
 
On some Native American land, owners have allowed individuals to explore and dig. In those cases, the individual would likely split any financial gain with the property owner. However, Native American culture is rich in historical significance to the people and to other citizens of the United States. For that reason, the Government has enacted certain laws meant to protect archaeologically sites from looting.
 
 
In 1990, the NAGPRA, or Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, was enacted in order to prevent individuals from looting graves, which is a common practice. Many times, individuals were buried with treasures which were representative of their personality. 
 
 
Those artifacts are often valuable due to historical significance or the actual monetary value of items such as precious metals. People have been working hard to educate the public about the sacred sites to help avoid further looting.
 
 
Looting of Native American archaeological sites will continue to be a problem due to the financial benefits available to individuals that make off with artifacts. There are vast amounts of land which contain valuable and historical artifacts. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to protect all sites from looting and vandalism. 
 
 
Luckily, newer laws allow for harsher punishments for those found guilty of looting Native American archaeological sites. Those laws, combined with education campaigns, will hopefully prevent some individuals form taking part in looting. When the public begins to realize the historical significance of artifacts, they will be more likely to participate in protecting the sites from looters.

Nazi Plunder

Nazi Plunder

The Nazi plunder is a reference to the actions of Nazi's in WWII. During the war, Nazi Germany was politically charged and many officials became greedy. Members of the military, and general citizens, also became greedy, often taking advantage of weaker citizens in Nazi Germany and in other countries. 
 
 
The Nazi plunder describes the theft of expensive art, and other loot, from many European countries. Nazi Germany included citizens that were fearful and under the command of the Nazi party. Members of the party were sometimes instructed on proper procedure for looting, and the manner in which to remain unrecognized.  
 
 
On some occasions, that included killing any witnesses to the looting.  The looting went on for years, until the war was finally ended. The looting often included many items that had cultural or personal significance to the victims of theft. There is currently an effort, worldwide, to reunite items that are still unaccounted for, with the families of the rightful owners.
 
 
Some of the items that were looted, were traded or sold, to fund the Nazis cause in Nazi Germany. The Nazis also looted certain structures in order to take specific items, such as books on freemasonry or simply the property of Jewish families and the families of masons. Looting was so common that many families attempted to hide their valuables, or personal items. Unfortunately, many of those families were never able to retrieve those belongings due to death or the inability to return to a certain area because of a real fear of death.  
 
 
The Nazi plunder continued for years and the loot was often brought to a museum in Paris where is was distributed between Hitler and Goring. They allegedly had at least twenty thousand pieces at the museum. Of those, the items that were not desired by Hitler or Goring, were offered to other Nazis. In total, officials from Nazi Germany are said to have collected hundreds of thousands of objects that were looted from families during the war. Prominent families were often targeted because it was well known that they had collections of value.
 
 
Some of the looting perpetrated by Nazi Germany, was rather systematic. Specific families were often targeted for the Nazi plunder because of their wealth and for various other reasons. The Nazi plunder has partially been recovered, but much of the valuable art work remains unaccounted for. Organizations work together with museums, in case they should ever come across a piece of the looted art. There are continued efforts to return the items to the families of the rightful owners.
 

The Facts on Looting Prosecution

The Facts on Looting Prosecution

In most countries, looting is illegal. However, penalties for the crime can vary greatly. In most places, many different people can be prosecuted for the same crime. For example, the person that hires someone to go and dig at a site is just as guilty as the person that removed the item from the site. 
 
 
The individual that sells the item is of equal guilt as the person that buys the item. In fact, all of those people can be prosecuted.
 
 
Due to technology, it can sometimes be difficult to ascertain who these individuals are. For example, a person that sells an item online may have covered their tracks in such a way that it is impossible to track the sale back to them specifically. In addition, many countries have governments that are compliant in the crime of looting and they benefit from the sale of archaeological items that were obtained illegally. 
 
 
In reality, it is difficult to put a price on items that looters take from archaeological sites. That loss translates to questions about history that may remain unanswered if the artifacts are not recovered from the looters.
 
 
Louisiana suffered from massive looting after hurricane Katrina. In that case, many individuals were simply desperate to survive and were often found to be looting supermarkets or drugstores. However, more frequently, looting was done by individuals that wished to benefit financially form the disaster.
 
 
Looting laws in Louisiana offer a glimpse into the penalties associated with looting. Looters can face fines up to $10,000. Looters in Louisiana can also face jail time of up to fifteen years. Individuals found guilty of looting can actually face both the fine and the jail time.
 
 
Looters that commit the crime during a natural disaster or state of emergency will face fines and sentences of a differing nature. Their sentence is likely to depend on the nature of the crime, such as items looted. Looters that steal in order to feed their family during a natural disaster will likely face less time than individuals caught stealing electronic or other valuable equipment with the hopes of making a profit.
 
 
Prosecution for looting can sometimes be difficult. In archaeological looting, the crime is not always detected immediately and the perpetrator may be long gone. The artifact may not be discovered until it is put for sale on the black market. However, looting that takes place during a natural disaster may be more detectable, depending on the presence of law enforcement. Oftentimes, law enforcement focuses their efforts on rescuing people and providing medical aid during disasters. 
 
 
Looting is difficult to prosecute if the crime is not immediately detected. Many times, perpetrators are long gone before the crime is even discovered. In cases where individuals are looting to provide for survival necessities, many jurisdictions will punish the crime much less harshly than those that are committed with the hope for financial gain. 
 
 
Some jurisdictions make that distinction by calling survival looting scavenging. That act often takes place during war, where individuals cannot otherwise survive. Those individuals often avoid prosecution.

Looting Types

Looting Types

There are several types of looting. Whatever the specific situation is, looters seek out unprotected property in order to meet some specific personal need. That need may be financial or it may be basic survival. For example, artifacts may be stolen or damaged by individuals that find an archaeological site unprotected.
 
 
On occasion, big or widely publicized artifacts become the desire of individuals that take part in looting. Artifacts that are looted from archaeological sites are often damaged or sold, with either scenario resulting in the permanent loss of those artifacts.
 
 
Industrial looting involves perpetrators that seek out large items in warehouses, such as expensive industrial equipment. Large structures, such as warehouses and farms, often make it difficult for owners to protect their property on a twenty-four hour basis, especially in certain circumstances, such as war. 
 
 
Natural disasters, such as Hurricanes, or earthquakes, often leave such property unguarded for extended periods of time.Industrial looting can also involve white collar crime, such as the events that have recently taken place with Goldman Sachs. In that case, it is believed that the perpetrators looted money form unsuspecting clients in order to increase their own financial wealth. 
 
 
Looting can take on many forms. There are looters that seek archaeological artifacts, which often end up getting damaged in the process. There are looters that take part in the crime in order to acquire the basic necessities of survival after a natural disaster. 
 
 
There are looters that steal after events such as war simply because the opportunity presents itself. In every type of looting, the perpetrators take the personal property of another because that property remains unguarded by the rightful owner.