At a sprawling Bronze Age cemetery in southern Jordan, archaeologists have developed a unique way of peering into the murky world of antiquities looting: With aerial photographs taken by a homemade drone, researchers are mapping exactly where - and roughly when - these ancient tombs were robbed.
Based on such images and conversations with some looters whose confidence they gained, archaeologists try to follow the trail of stolen pots and other artifacts to traders and buyers. They hope to get a better understanding of the black market and perhaps stop future plunder.
It's sophisticated detective work that stretches from the site, not far from the famed Dead Sea in Jordan, to collectors and buyers the world over.
The aerial photography detects spots where new looting has taken place at the 5,000-year-old Fifa graveyard, which can then sometimes be linked to Bronze Age pots turning up in shops of dealers, said Morag Kersel, an archaeologist at DePaul University in Chicago. Kersel, who heads the “Follow The Pots” project, also shares the data with Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, to combat looting.
People don’t ask the sticky questions about where artifacts come from