Unfortunately, the public loses access to many archaeological marvels every year when they are looted and sold on the black market to private collectors. A combination of tomb-raiding and vandalism has marred many of the vestiges of the ancient world. In a previous blogpost, I mentioned that the Getty has created a prototype computer system with satellite imaging (MEGA) to help monitor monuments and share archaeological information in Jordan. Even in Greek and Roman times, people vandalized and raided tombs for rich grave goods. The Phaedrus on whom Plato's Phaedrus is based could not have been in Athens during the dramatic date of the conversation because he had been exiled for vandalizing religious statues. In my favorite Horace poem, 2.13, Horace describes the man who planted the evil tree as having "sacreliga manu" or profane hands. However, the word does not just mean "profane;" the first defintion of sacreligus,-a,-um (adj) is one "that steals sacred things, that robs a temple" (see the Lewis & Short entry on Perseus). And certainly since antiquity civilizations have been robbing the monuments of their forefathers for valuable materials in for building and making money or war.
The story I read this morning, however, has a happy ending. According to Egyptology News, a group of security forces and archaeologists apprehended a some thieves trying to steal the King Ramses II Colossus. I can see now a whole new generational of children wanting to become crime-fighting archaeologists.