Sunday, 26 May 2013

Syria (3), Evidence of Looting from Google Earth as of 5th May 2013, Northern and Eastern Regions

This is a continuation of the two posts above.

Northeastern region

This region is currently mostly in the hands of rebels, so seems worth treating as a single unit.
Deir ez-Zor (As Zawr) Governorate is covered in post number (1) in this series.

Idlib Governorate (53 sites shown on ANE database)

There is a spread of looters' holes at Tell Jiffar [ 35°25'9.70"N  36°26'20.21"E],  which seem related to the ones at Apamea to the west. The latest photos were taken 4/4/2012, but in fact the majority of these holes were dug already by the time the photos of 15/9/2007 were taken but between the two sessions the extent of the digging had increased at least two-fold (and some of the earlier holes on the SW had been filled in).

There are what look like looting holes in the top of Tell Freji [35°31'35.25"N  36°50'6.68"E] and on its sides, they are visible on the photos of 29/1/2007 as well as the most recent ones (21/7/2010).

Tell el-Khazna [35°33'7.74"N  36°55'0.02"E], in the latest photos (21/7/2010)  there are no clear traces of looters' holes, but this is a matter of lighting. In the photos of 29/1/2007, there are clear traces of some big holes, though they look eroded even by then.

At  Tell Khanzir [35°26'0.84"N 36°57'44.24"E], the latest photos are from 29/1/2007 and show an arc of (possibly looters') holes going across the site, also some other digging activity.

 The site at Sheik Barana [35°33'33.42"N  36°58'23.27"E], has some interesting eroded mounds suggesting ruins in it, the area is riddled by looters holes in the latest photos (21/7/2013) but photos taken with raking light 29/1/2007 show that the are within and a small discrete area to the NW had been dug over by that date.

At  Mesherfet el-Khanzir [35°28'54.44"N 36°56'57.04"E] on a badly-damaged tell site, there are some unclear indications of some kind of activity, possibly including hole-digging, between the houses. It is not clear whether this is looting or some other kind of activity. These holes were there in 2010.

It is not clear from the Google earth photos what is happening at Tell Unad Khalil [ 36° 1'18.40"N 36°42'0.58"E], while the tell itself seems not to have looter holes, there is some kind of a masonry compound to the south which has what look like holes appearing in it (19/5./2011 onwards). I am not sure however whether this is an archaeological feature, and the activity involved may be dumping rather than digging.

At Soultane [35°48'25.19"N  36°58'28.88"E] right on the edge of the province, rather fuzzy photos of 22nd August 2011 might show some looter holes in the summit, but these seem to have already been present in photos of January 2007 where the surface of the mound seems pockmarked with shallow holes.

Ebla (Tell Mardikh) [35°47'53.01"N 36°47'55.60"E] is a huge site, with extensive areas of archaeological trenches left open, many of them looking very eroded. It has been left in a dreadful state by previous excavators. There is some dumping on the NE corner, and maybe a few traces of digging within the trenches on the west side of the central complex (if that is what it is, it took place before June 2010), but the latest photos (22/8/2011) show little trace of extensive looting. 

Aleppo Governorate
There are a large number of sites showing signs of looting on the Google earth photos.

In the northern region of the province there are very few recent satellite photos. A number of cases which seem to relate to recent looting were spotted:
Arpadda (Tell Rifa'at) [36°28'21.44"N 37° 5'40.70"E] photos of 11th May 2011 show the surface of the mound covered in holes of various shapes, sizes and depths on the surface and flanks. Many, but not all, of them are visible on the photos of 11th October 2011, but there are no earlier ones of any quality. Since the tell is surrounded by a town, some of these holes may be related to the use of opebn=n space around the settlement rather than being purely for looting.

At Tell Bahouerte [36°34'41.97"N 37°18'46.80"E] holes are visible on the summit of this site in photos of 10th June 2011, given the topography of the site, these seem likely to be looting holes.

The regular-shaped tell at Dur-Šamši-Adad (Qal'at Halwanji) [36°38'38.64"N  37°54'16.49"E] has open archaeological trenches across its summit in the latest photos of 22nd September 2009, in the photo some irregular holes can be seen at the base of the mound and in the valley in the middle of the east side. the latter seem likely to be from artefact hunting.
 Tell 'Ain el-Beida [36°43'33.60"N 37°58'15.43"E] a few holes visible on the flanks of the mound in the latest photos of 22nd September 2009.

At Tell Amarna [36°44'43.15"N 38° 0'49.37"E] to the east, the site has (at least two overlapping systems of) large open archaeological trenches visible on the photos of of 22nd September 2009 and on the southern edge of the mound are some very clear holes, perhaps of looters in eroded open archaeological trenches. The mound surface is pockmarked by shallower holes.  
South of Aleppo, several of the tells in this region are partly built-over. Several of them therefore have damage that could be related to normal use of the terrain next to settlements.

Tell el-Quobli [36° 5'38.18"N 37° 7'36.25"E] latest photos 30th September 2012 show large random holes in mound surface and earth digging (?) at the base. Some of this was present on photos of June 2011, but there is a hint that there is more going on in the later photos around what seems to be an archaeological trench at the summit.

At 'Ayn Hassan [36° 3'29.02"N 37°13'10.56"E]   the latest photos of 21st September 2012show extensive damage to the site, with earth-digging and dumping at the base, a road across its top, and random holes all over the surface. Many of them however are also visible on photos of June 2009, though it seems digging has continued and expanded, probably looting is involved. 

Tell Berne [36° 2'1.72"N   37° 0'18.44"E] this is a much damaged site with encroachment and digging in several areas. On the west side the latest photos of 5th June 2012 show a cluster of holes, some rectangular, others more irregular some of which could be from looting. They begin appearing though in photos of June 2011.

Chalcis (El-'Is / Qinnasrin) [35°59'21.56"N 37° 0'13.82"E] is a tell where the tops of walls can still be traced on the ground surface. At a number of places around them are holes, though the ones visible on the latest photos (10th September 2011) are largely visible on earlier photos (most clearly 20th August 2010) where they seem to be heavily eroded. One fresh hole in the southwest corner of the site was 'fresh' in photos of 2007.

Ar-Raqqah Governorate (37 sites shown on ANE database, mostly in the Balikh river valley [oddly few in the Euphrates floodplain here]).
Tell es-Saman  Sharqi  [36°12'8.17"N 38°59'55.27"E], there are holes all over part of this site on the photos of 20/8/2010 and 9/8/2010 which are the latest on GE. The site at Tell Shakhin [36°19'8.16"N 39° 0'14.75"E] has a dense scatter of holes all over it, at first sight these look like looters' holes (though they lack upcast), but the appearance of similarly-textured ground in areas adjacent where there is no archaeological material suggests this is geological (karstic?) in origin rather than evidence of looting.   

Al-Hasakah Governorate

In this region are the sites of Tell Half and Tell Brak, the latter well-represented on the antiquities market before the civil war (figurines, many fakes though). Tell Halaf (Guzana) has a cemetery on top, and the latest photos 21/11/2010 do not show any clear signs of extensive looting. Tell Brak  is shown very clearly on photos of 30/10/2010  and there are only a few irregular holes on the north edge which might be looters' holes, and four more on the SW side of the top, but they all look old.

Most of the Google earth photography of this region is 2010 vintage or older, which makes it difficult to assess looting after the outbreak of war. The following are of note:

Tell Qarta  [36°49'57.34"N 40°13'45.12"E] fuzzy photos from 23rd June 2010 show possible looting ..

Tell Dibak [36°53'20.65"N 40°36'42.41"] photos from 10th November 2010 show a few small holes, their nature is not clear.

Tell Salander [36°51'52.05"N 40°47'55.75"E] photos from 21st November 2010 show a few small holes, their nature is not clear.

Tell Ašnakkum? (Chagar Bazar) [36°52'32.13"N 40°53'51.75"E] fuzzy photos from 21st November 2010 show looters' holes in old excavations.

Ger Ghanishan [36°48'46.99"N 40°53'52.64"E], fuzzy photos from 23rd June 2010 show possible looting ..

Tell Makhad er-Rejba [36°35'22.07"N  40°44'59.98"E] an odd ring of holes around the cemetery in photos of 10th November 2011 (but appearing earlier than 27 October 2010), rather than looters' holes they seem likely to be military foxholes.

At nearby Tell Bazari  [ 36°36'7.32"  40°47'15.96"E] there are scattered holes on the flank of te tell, minor looting? (Photos of 7th August 2010, and later - latest photos 16th November 2012, no change)ring of pits on south flank look like foxholes.

Tell el-Aswad [36°35'3.36"N 40°53'43.87"E], further to the east, random holes in several areas of this large site, but again appearing on photos of 27 October 2010 (latest photos of November 2012 show little change in the number of holes).

Tell Dibé [36°39'54.92"N  40°55'43.88"E] there seems to be some random and perhaps shallow disturbances at various points across this site, occurring after the photos of 17th August 2010 and 17th April 2012. It is unclear whether this is looting or simply damage.

Tell Judayda  [36°25'55.51"N  40°51'25.92"E] the photos of this site are all of poor quality. It is possible that the photos of 2nd December 2011 show looting, but this is unclear. 
Tell Shuraq  [36°56'9.09"N  41°12'21.99"E]  on the latest photos of 22nd October 2011, there are some quite large irregular holes dug at various points on this tell, but the same holes are faintly visible on photos of 18th August 2010

Tell Dhahab [36°53'51.85"N 41°10'36.66"E] the edges of this tell have been quite extensvely damaged by earth-0digging at the base, and on the latest photos of 22nd October 2011, there are some quite large irregular holes dug at various points on the west side. These feature\s however are all (faintly) visible on photos of the 14th April 2010. 

 Tell Abu Kassab  [36°37'54.37"N  41°16'32.77"E] and Tell Murshud  [36°35'35.02"N 41°11'17.20"E] the latest photos of 14th August 2010 are low definition and seem to show a number of large, scattered (looters') holes in the site.

Tell Griefat [36°54'40.11"N 41°50'36.98"E], surrounded by a modern village on three sides shows quite a bit of damage from hole-digging at its base. Two clusters of features on the west flank visible in photos of 29th November 2011 could be looters' holes, but they are (just about) visible taken in the middle of August 2010.

Tell Kirab  [36°57'45.68"N 41°53'8.67"E] a large and deep square hole in the middle of the site, surrounded by buildings appeared before August 2010, rather than looting, this looks like an attempt to build illegally on the site. The hole remained open in the photos of 29th November 2011, but by them=n had acquired some smaller holes in the side walls, probably artefact hunters.

Es-Saddiya [36°51'18.11"N 42° 6'23.32"E] In photos of 30th October 2010, there are a number of random holes of unclear nature in several parts of this site which lies immediately adjacent to a village, they were apparently dug after the photos of 23 Sept 2006.

In the south of the province are few sites which exhibit signs of looting. One possible example is Tell Maqada [35°44'42.18"N  40°46'1.16"E] which has very fuzzy photos showing possible holes but this is from 31/12/2004.

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