Looted Episode 1: Gold Digger
This is the first in a series of podcasts from Zoe Kontes’ terrific “Looted.”
Listen to the story of a gold funerary wreath, looted from Northern Greece in the 1990s, smuggled into Germany, and eventually purchased by an illustrious U.S. museum. With their abundance of gold and other luxury items, the royal tombs of Macedonia in this area have been the target of looters (and archaeologists) for years. The debates about the VIPs who may or may not be interred within (the father of Alexander the Great, for one) continue, and demonstrate the essential importance of archaeological context.
On Looted: The Podcast, we uncover the hidden stories of ancient artifacts and their journeys in the illicit antiquities trade. I’m Zoe Kontes, and I’m an archaeologist. When we archaeologists dig, we carefully record what we find so we can make the best sense of the evidence. But go to any museum, auction house, or dealer with an antiquities collection—Ebay even—and you’ll be sure to find objects that have been removed from the ground without this kind of proper excavation. Looting destroys the context of artifacts, and while they may look beautiful in a display case, we lose any information about their significance or function in the culture that made them. This is a loss of our common human history, and it affects us all.