Digging for Antiquities in Rural Aleppo

Format mpeg-ps, Bitrate 5.859 mbps

Aleppo, Syria
November 30, 2014

An intimate look into the daily lives of several young men scrounging for objects of archaeological value in the countryside of Aleppo province, Syria. Though both the interviewed men and the specific area in which they are digging for archaeological remnants remain unknown and anonymous, the men delve into their motives for unearthing whatever objects they can find: first to support themselves and second, to support the revolution. To do so, they must contact potential buyers in Turkey (who serve as middle men for selling further abroad); locate particular objects of value; avoid digging in areas under control of rival groups, factions and parties; and avoid the ploys of other smugglers and diggers to keep them from locating certain valuable objects (by using decoys).

Soundbites

(Arabic, man) (01:24-01:29) We're very poor, so poor that we cannot even afford bread. That is the situation of each person who works in artifacts.

(Arabic, man) (04:21-04:31) We are hoping to find gold, so we can use it to support the revolution. We have been here for three days.

(Arabic, man) (04:32-04:39) We are here to look for gold because we do not have work, or anything.

(Arabic, man) (04:40-06:22) Interviewer: if you find gold, what do you do with it?

We export it to Turkey, and then there are people in Turkey who sell it to other countries.

Interviewer: what do you wish to do with gold or artifacts if you find any?

I wish to use them to improve our living conditions, to support the revolution, and to help those poor families who cannot even afford food. Personally, for myself, I wish to buy a house, help my family and help all the poor. Half of the people here are not working. We want to support them and support the FSA.

Interviewer: when you find artifacts and sell them, don't you feel guilty that you are taking something which is not yours and selling it?

Those things do not belong to anyone, we dig and work for months and hardly get anything, so I do not think it is wrong, and these are old things.

We are working very hard to get them; previously we weren't able to drill, but here it is easier. The FSA are good people, but when the regime was in control, we could not do this work because whoever got caught would be executed.

(Arabic, man) (06:31-06:37) The tools that we use are very basic, the shovel, the fork and other similar tools

(Arabic, man) (06:50-07:30) We have been working very hard for three months to find gold or artifacts, and until now, have found nothing. We hope to improve our situation, maybe buy a house or a car, because our current situation is very bad, and maybe we can help the poor.

(Arabic, man) (09:15-10:52) We took pictures of this statue and sent it to foreign merchants, but they were not interested. They said they wanted the treasury that contains the gold. However, we cannot get the treasury because it is buried in a mountain where we cannot go, it is an area controlled by a certain party. They saw the picture and did not want it. They wanted the gold. They told us that they used to place statues like that so that when someone found it, he would think it was the treasure and would stop searching for the gold. They did not want it, they wanted the gold.

(Arabic, man) (10:55-11:57) I am Abu Omar, I work with an archeologist, we found this in a grotto, this is a part of a mosaic floor, it is about 2000 years old. We do not have told to take out properly, so it broke into many pieces. This can be sold for almost 50,000$, but now after it all broke. it is no longer worth anything.