Jabal Maragha, an ancient site in Sudan has been brought to ruin by Illegal Gold-Hunting Diggers.
Sudan is Africa’s third-largest producer of gold, after South Africa and Ghana, with commercial mining bringing in $1.2bn (£900m) to the government last year, AFP reports. It is also home to hundreds of pyramids and other ancient sites, although they are not as well known as those in its northern neighbor, Egypt.
In the Bayouda desert of Sudan, The Jabal Maragha site, which dates from the Meroitic period between 350 BC and 350 AD, is said to have either been a small settlement or a checkpoint. This historical site can be said to provide national, cultural, and ethnic identity to Sudanese people as it has been preserved for centuries.
In the past, people also tried their luck by panning for gold at the city of Omdurman, across the river from Khartoum, where the waters of the White and Blue Niles meet. But the gold they found was in tiny quantities. When people saw archaeologists digging and finding things, they were convinced there was gold.
Officials from Sudan’s antiquities and museums department said when they visited the site, some 270km north of the capital Khartoum, last month they found two mechanical diggers and five men at work. They had excavated a vast trench about 17 meters deep, and 20 meters long.
“They had completely excavated it because the ground is composed of layers of sandstone and pyrite,” said Hatem al-Nour, Sudan’s director of antiquities and museums. “And as this rock is metallic their detector would start ringing. So they thought there was gold.”
The archaeologists were accompanied by a police escort, who took the treasure-hunters to a police station — but they were freed within hours. “They should have been put in jail and their machines confiscated. There are laws,” said Mahmoud al-Tayeb, a former expert from Sudan’s antiquities department. Instead, the men left without charge, and their diggers were released too.”It is the saddest thing,” said Tayeb, who is also a professor of archaeology at the University of Warsaw.