Live Science explores the human and historic cost of antiquities thefts in Egypt, where political instability and a tourism decline since the country’s 2011 revolution have led to widespread looting of archaeological sites — sometimes 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. Countless ancient sites have been defiled.
An investigation suggests that many of the looted Egyptian artifacts, including vast numbers of gold coins, have made their way into the United States. Federal documents show that more than $143 million worth of artifacts have been exported from Egypt to the United States since 2011. The artifacts were brought into the U.S. for personal or commercial use, rather than temporary display in a museum, the documents say. The vast majority of the artifacts were shipped to New York City, where many auction houses, antiquities dealers and art galleries are based. In the first five months of 2016, about $26 million worth of artifacts were exported from Egypt to the U.S., documents say.