Archaeological Heritage and Spiritual Protection

Looting and the Jinn in Palestine


  • Salah Hussein Al-Houdalieh The Institute of Archaeology Al-Quds University



jinn, Palestine, cultural heritage, possession, antiquities looters


Archaeological sites in the Occupied Palestinian National Territories (OPNT) are suffering from severe destruction through the activities of antiquities looters. The main reasons for this escalating phenomenon among the Palestinian population include poverty, escalated demand for hunted archaeological material in the Israeli and the worldwide antiquities market, ongoing local and regional political crises, and poor law enforcement. In recent decades the destruction of archaeological sites and the loss of cultural heritage have entered an especially sensitive, dangerous and complicated phase, as a large number of antiquities looters have started to rely on the services of spirits, known as the jinn (singular jinni) in Arabic, to identify the location of ‘protected’ treasures. In the course of my field surveys, I came to know 73 individuals who regularly searched for antiquities with the assistance of jinn. More than half of these, however, refused to be interviewed for fear of their names being divulged to governmental authorities. The aims of this study are to identify the character, scope, effectiveness and underlying motivation of Palestinian antiquities looters working through the assistance of the jinn. The author’s personal perspective on questions of the existence or non-existence of jinn, and their practical ability to assist the antiquities looters to uncover ‘protected’ hidden treasure, remains intentionally neutral throughout this work.

Author Biography

  • Salah Hussein Al-Houdalieh, The Institute of Archaeology Al-Quds University
    Associate Professor of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage






How to Cite

Al-Houdalieh, S. H. (2012). Archaeological Heritage and Spiritual Protection: Looting and the Jinn in Palestine. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 25(1), 99-120.