Satellite evidence of archaeological site looting in Egypt: 2002–2013

Sarah Parcaka1, David Gathingsa1, Chase Childsa1, Greg Mumforda1 and Eric Clinea2

a1 Department of Anthropology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1401 University Boulevard, Birmingham AL 35205, USA (Email:

a2 Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, George Washington University, 801 22nd Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20052, USA


Analysis of satellite imagery covering Egypt between 2002 and 2013 indicates a significant increase in looting and other damage to archaeological sites. Looting escalated dramatically from 2009 with the onset of the global economic crisis, and intensified still further with the Arab Spring in 2011. This was mirrored by an increased volume of Egyptian artefacts sold at auction, suggesting that looting is driven by external demand as well as by internal economic pressures. Satellite analysis can be used to predict the type and period of antiquities entering the market, thereby providing valuable intelligence for international policing of the illicit antiquities trade.

(Received April 28 2015)

(Accepted June 15 2015)

(Revised July 09 2015)


  • Egypt;
  • satellite remote-sensing;
  • looting;
  • encroachment;
  • illicit antiquities;
  • Arab Spring