7.10.2011

Arm museum guards to prevent looting, says professor

This is a very silly idea. Arming guards will may deter minor looters of opportunity, but is more likely to result in death. Most of those scavenging around on archaeological sites are the poor and desperate who have no other options - they dig items up or die of starvation. And no artefact is worth a life, whether of a guard, an archaeologist or a robber. I say that as someone who design a project where too many men lost their lives, and which I still have nightmares about. Improperly trained men with guns are no obstacle to professional looters. It's a loose-loose proposal.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/jul/10/arm-museum-guards-looting-war?mobile-redirect=false

3 comments:

  1. Hi Dorothy, just wanted to say that I agree that it is a bad idea to simply put improperly trained men with guns on sites. On the other hand, as you yourself know, many site guards -- though perhaps not in Egypt -- are armed, as are museum guards in many museums, and there are very few reports of deaths, so I am not sure why you think it is more likely to result in death. But the real issue is what to do when the folks who usually do carry weapons -- the antiquities police -- melt away. I know from Wathiq Hindo, a security specialist who visited Iraq just before the 2003 invasion and bought an AK-47 himself for a site guard, that that guard did manage to ward off would-be looters when the government collapsed. And Donny George along with a few other brave souls carrying nothing more than steel pipes, managed to keep guys who were driving by the museum brandishing guns from attacking it a second time. It is that sort of situation, not the everyday one involving scavengers, that needs to be prepared for with contingency plans. Those plans should involve arming guards, as well as mobilizing local citizens' groups to come out to help as well, as the protestors did in front of the museum.
    BTW, if I might ask, what is this very sad-sounding project you are mentioning?

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  2. I've blogged elsewhere about the database, and since we've been discussing it for several years, I am surprised no-one has told you about it. I am glad you agree that looting of museums and archaeological sites is sad - although I'd probably use the world tragic - (unless you mean it's sad that all the people who claim to want to do something about looting have not yet set up something as basic as a database?), and look forward to having your full and enthusiastic support for the project in the future.

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  3. I don't suppose you could link to the database blog post(s), could you? Googling "Dorothy King"+"database" gets thousands upon thousands of results.

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I do not moderate comments, but I remove spam, overt self-promotion ("read [link] my much better post on this") and what I consider hate speech (racism, homophobia etc).

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