John Russell

Looters at Isin, an ancient Sumerian city 110 miles south of Baghdad, brazenly wave at the plane from which John Russell, an American archaeological consultant in Iraq, took this photo last January. The holes visible in the photo are probes dug by looters in search of valuable artifacts. Since the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, Coalition forces, including Italian Carabinieri and U.S. Marines, and Iraqi police simply have not had the necessary resources to protect most of Iraq’s archaeological sites. Although Iraqi police in Baghdad recently arrested four smugglers and confiscated a cache of 3,000 looted objects (see box), that is the exception. Experts estimate that more than 100 significant archaeological sites in Iraq have been severely plundered since the beginning of the war.