Morag Kersel, an archaeologist at Chicago-based DePaul University, is conducting a five-year survey to track incremental fluctuations in illegal digging, hoping to better understand antiquities trafficking, according to an article by National Geographic.
The political instability and rich history of the Middle East drives a market for Holy Land artifacts. Kersal says UAVs are ideal for her project because they are relatively inexpensive and provide more granular data than satellites.
At Fifa, a site that contains more than 10,000 Bronze Age tombs, she has discovered that the impoverished local farmers that primarily comprise looters are reworking previously dug holes. The implication is that the more accessible supply of artifacts has been exhausted.
In addition to determining what has been lost in order to protect what is left, Kersal hopes to trace the flow of artifacts from Jordan to neighboring countries.
Read the full National Geographic article here.