Friday, February 25, 2011
Wupatki National Monument, Arizona (my own photo)
I'm racing through my back-pile of books to read although I sheepishly have to admit that the local Border's is closing and I bought a pile of new books at 60% off. It seems unlikely that I'll ever clear out a bookshelf.
My next book to review is Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers, and the Looting of the Ancient World, by Roger Atwood. I had a great time reading this one. It is a non-fiction work about the illicit trade in antiquities, centered largely on Peru. It reads like a book on Global Warming--message, the world is going to hell in a handbasket and no one can do anything to stop it.
Petroglyphs, Petrified Forest National Park
It is also reminiscent of the effort to protect wildlife in poor countries. How can you stop the poachers (in this case looters) from taking items they can sell for a profit when the crime is supported by the need of poor people to eat and by the desires of rich people for more trophies for their collections? In Peru, ancient tombs are being raided daily by local people, but the trade is fueled by the wealthy buyers (including museums)in developed countries.
The author interviews people at all sides of the antiquities industry from the looters themselves, to private collectors, archaeologists and law enforcement people. His message is that the world has to collectively take action to prevent the destruction and theft of local treasures.
I can understand the urge to dig for buried treasure and then to hoard and acquire these treasures. I'm not confessing to any misdeeds, mind you, but I've always wanted a chance to participate in an archaeological dig. Not that I ever considered a career in archaeology but maybe after my younger son leaves home, I'll sign up to volunteer to sift sand in some exotic place. I'd love to find a few pot shards or ancient bones and I promise not to keep any for myself!
Back to the book--it's great. Read it.