ISTANBUL — These videos provide an unprecedented look at the kind of illicit excavations that plague Syria today, as looters descend on historical sites across the country to dig up precious artifacts and sell them off to help fund a grueling civil war.
BuzzFeed News obtained the videos from an activist on the Turkey–Syria border, who said they showed an illegal dig last year in the province of Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria.
Deir Ezzor is an ISIS stronghold today, but parts of it have changed hands several times over the course of the war. BuzzFeed News was unable to confirm who controlled the specific patch of territory shown in the videos at the time they were filmed.
The dig is undertaken with a surprising level of professionalism, showing workers in well-dug excavation pits chiseling around artifacts with care and brushing them clean. The camera pauses on documents from a pre-war excavation sanctioned by the government that suggests the site is Dura-Europos, an important archaeological site that ISIS has looted extensively.
Read BuzzFeed News' in-depth investigation into the vast network of diggers and smugglers that comprise the illicit trade in Syrian artifacts here.