The US Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has released some updated satellite Imagery of Archaeological Site Looting in Syria, focussing on three sites in the Euphrates and Khabur valleys in Deir ez-Zor Governate, the area where insurgents have been highly active.
The first site is Dura Europos, Abu Kamal, Deir ez-Zor Governorate, where since the first photograph (June 2012) and before the beginning of April this year, the entire area of the city has apparently been dug over pretty systematically, penetrating deep into many individual rooms of whole ranges of buildings. The latest Google Earth photo of this site dates to 8th April 2011 and when I looked at the looting as seen on Google Earth a few months ago, showed no recent looting. In the latest photos, the shadows are sharp, the sun is low, and the extent of the damage is shocking. It is a superb photo (is this a satellite shot or a vertical survey shot from a plane?). This hole digging was not done for fun or to pass the time, somebody has been getting something from those holes, and that something has been got for a purpose. They've found a way of making this hole-digging in the hot sun worthwhile.
At Mari, Abu Kamal, Deir ez-Zor Governorate, the latest photos available through Google Earth are also from 8th April 2011. The BECA have shown photos of 7th September 2012 and 25th March 2014. The looters' pits are visible in several areas in the second photo. Several of them cut through excavation spoil heaps as though the diggers knew that there was something underneath, and in other cases totally blank areas have been chosen - why? While the pitting is nowhere near as severe as at Dura, this is still disturbing. Again none of this new digging was visible on Google Earth.
The third site chosen by the BECA is Tell Sheikh Hamad