By Owen Jarus
Since the 2011 Egyptian revolution, political instability and a tourism decline have led to widespread looting of archaeological sites — with deadly consequences.
Children forced to work in dangerous conditions to pillage historical sites have died. Antiquities guards were gunned down within an ancient tomb they were trying to protect. Mummies have been left out in the sun to rot after their tombs were robbed. And looting pits have pockmarked ancient sites in such vast numbers that words cannot adequately describe.
A Live Science investigation found that not only were these horrific events happening but that an enormous amount of potentially looted Egyptian artifacts had made their way into the United States. These artifacts include a vast number of gold coins. [See Photos of the Looting in Egypt]
Documents obtained from the US Census Bureau by Live Science reveal that since 2011, more than $143 million worth of artifacts have been exported from Egypt to the United States. The artifacts were brought into the United States for personal or commercial use, rather than temporary display in a museum, the documents say. The documents also show that the vast majority of the artifacts were shipped to New York City, where many auction houses, antiquities dealers and art galleries are based. However, detecting a shipment of looted artifacts and proving that they were looted is very difficult, researchers and government officials told Live Science.
The influx of Egyptian artifacts into the United States shows no signs of abating. In the first five months of 2016, about $26 million worth of artifacts were exported from Egypt to the United States, the Census Bureau documents say.