At the end of last August, scholars from the ancient ruins of Jabal Maragha, in Sudan, reported that the archaeological site was invaded and looted by a group of illegal gold miners who carried out excavation operations to gain access to the set of treasures hidden in the Bayouda desert, about 270 kilometers from the capital Khartoum.

The nearly 2,000-year-old archaeological site was found to have deteriorated, with a huge ditch 17 meters deep and almost 20 meters long. Along the hole, five men were identified operating on the site, controlling two high-performance mechanical excavators. The result was a marked erosion of historic territory that had been studied since 1999 by Sudanese experts.

“We worked at this site for a month,” said archaeologist Habab Idriss Ahmed, the first researcher to work at Jabal Maragha. “At the time, it was a peaceful and beautiful place, never touched by anyone. But today, when I came here, I was shocked at how it was destroyed. ”

Archaeologists immediately alerted the police about the invasion of Jabal Maragha. Unfortunately, when the looters were taken to the police station, they were released and escaped serving time for their illegal activities. “They should have been put in prison and their machines confiscated,” reported antique expert Mahmoud al-Tayeb. “There are laws.”

Sudan is home to hundreds of pyramids and other ancient sites, although they are not as well known as those in its northern neighbour, Egypt.

Vandalism in Sudanese sites

According to Hatem al-Nour, director of antiquities and museums in Sudan, “of about a thousand known sites in Sudan, at least 100 have been destroyed or damaged”. As a result of the lack of security and encouragement on the part of authorities and businessmen linked to the branches of mineral wealth, Sudanese archaeologists start to suffer losses that not even the gold money covers, both due to the costs of resuming research and the loss of historical heritage .

At Sai, a 12km-long river island in the Nile, hundreds of graves, some dating back to the times of the pharaohs, have been raided and destroyed by looters.

Currently, Sudan is the third largest gold producer in Africa, even generating revenue of US $ 1.2 billion for the government. The price of such recognition increases as looters and financiers of illegal excavations are attracted by the material hidden in the ruins, contributing to a practice that has been increasing in recent years.