‘Tomb raiders’: The pandemic is making it simpler than ever to loot historical Roman treasures

'Tomb raiders': The pandemic is making it easier than ever to loot ancient Roman treasures

Written by Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNNAntonia Mortensen, CNNRome, Italy

The looting of ancient art in Italy is not a new phenomenon. It is at least as old as the Roman empire, which not only contended with its own tomb raiders — or “tombaroli,” as they are known in Italy — but also pilfered riches from other nations.

The Covid-19 pandemic, however, has offered these thieves new opportunities to raid closed archeological sites, churches and museums for priceless artifacts while police are reassigned to enforce lockdowns.

During 2020, there was a notable increase in the trading of looted artifacts on Facebook groups globally, according to Katie Paul, co-director of the Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research Project. In April and May, one of the largest groups monitored by the project almost doubled in size to 300,000 members.

“This uptick can be attributed in part to the coronavirus lockdown and downturn in economies in many parts of the world,” she said via email….