Sunday, November 23, 2014

Raiders of the lost tombs: Gold fever hits Jordan

UMM EL-JIMAL, JORDAN. The tomb-raiders no longer even wait for night to fall before they loot the ancient crypts.

In recent weeks, grave-robbers here dug into 2,000-year-old tombs right in front of a house rented by archeologists. Dozens of shallow pits now mark the spot. The field is littered with cracked, carved stones that once covered the dead.
Rumours have been flying of buried treasure ... Ottoman gold and Byzantine jewels, jars heavy with Roman coins.

The looters are not only looking for gold, but for ceramics, glassware, lamps, masonry and bits of jewelry, all of which quickly find their way into the global antiquities trade.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour called an extraordinary news conference to dispel rumours that an area around the city of Aljoun, which had been declared off-limits by the military, was a treasure find.
People assumed the late-night explosions and mysterious excavations meant the buried riches of Alexander the Great had been unearthed. Looters descended on the area. Taxi drivers in Amman confidently told visiting journalists the booty was worth billions. Turns out the Jordan military wasn’t digging for treasure, but for Israeli spy equipment buried there in 1969. The news conference did little to break the fever.
Umm el-Jimal’s walled city was occupied in waves by Nabateans, Romans and Byzantines between the 1st and 8th centuries. It was laid to waste by an earthquake in A.D. 749. “Every night, there is digging here now,” he said. “In the morning, men in Hummers come to buy what they find.”

Hazza thought for a moment. “It’s like a drive-through,”