The ancient city of Dura-Europos sits on a bluff above the Tigris River a few miles from Syria's border with Iraq, its mud-brick walls facing a bleak expanse of desert. Just a year ago the city's precise grid of streets—laid down by Greek and Roman residents 2,000 years ago—was largely intact. Temples, houses, and a substantial Roman outpost were preserved for centuries by the desert sands.
"It stood out for its remarkable preservation," says Simon James, an archaeologist at the U.K.'s University of Leicester who spent years studying the site's Roman garrison. "Until now." (See before and after pictures of archaeological site looting.)