Catrina Stewart for USA TODAY
A burial shaft has been illegally excavated.
by Catrina Stewart, Special for USA TODAY
Published: 03/24/2013 09:08am
DAHSHUR, Egypt — An Egyptian archaeologist points to fresh motorcycle tracks on the desert sand, traces left by the gangs who dig under the cover of darkness for Pharaonic treasures.
Dozens of burial tombs untouched for millennia lie open and ransacked of their contents. Mounds of earth signal the location of other illicit excavations.
The looters “work from sunset to sunrise. It’s systematic; it’s open; it’s in front of everyone,” says Monica Hanna, 29, an archaeologist.
Tomb raiding in Egypt dates to antiquity; however, since the fall of former dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the plunder appears to have become more widespread, and more professional.
The thieves are organized in gangs; some are armed and violent. The tomb sites were guarded well for decades but after Mubarak’s ouster the once-feared police services simply melted away.
The elimination of the despised police services also left a security vacuum and an open invitation to trespass without fear of reprisal, archaeologists say.
They come every night, sometimes in groups of up to 40 and armed with machine guns, say custodians at the sites. They work with sophisticated equipment to move mounds of sand that have protected the dead for thousands of years.
Copyright 2013 USATODAY.com
The article continues here: http://m.usatoday.com/article/news/1956693?preferredArticleViewMode=single