Here, Humbert is trying to shield a Byzantine mosaic pavement dating back to the sixth century. But the concrete shelter that would protect it from the weather will cost $75,000 and the archaeologist is still looking for funding.
The Jebaliyah mosaic pavement is part of what once was a Byzantine church located on the road from Gaza to Jerusalem.
Weather can also contribute to a site's demise, such as at Tel Es-Sakan in central Gaza.
It was excavated in 2000 by French universities and contains the oldest rampart ever discovered in the Middle East, dating back some 3,500 years, Humbert said. But once uncovered, the mud bricks were exposed to rain and the walls started to vanish. Today, only a few remnants still exist.
The biggest threat to Tel Es-Sakan, however, was the construction of a branch of the Palestine University in 2008 that eventually brought about the destruction of one-fourth of the site, said Humbert.
An official at the university said that it received full approval from the government before starting construction, and that the building was monitored by the municipality. He spoke anonymously as he had no authorization to talk to the media.
Despite the challenges, the local antiquities authority has conducted its own excavation, at Tel Rafah along the border with Egypt, for the past three years. The site is believed to correspond to a Roman-era city where coins, jars, tools and animal remains have been found.
Humbert estimated that several dozen more archaeological sites are "buried under the sand" in Gaza. New discoveries are made all the time as buildings are being constructed, he said, but residents only report finds to the authorities in some cases.
Gaza only has a handful of museums that can help connect the residents and their heritage. The ministry runs the public Qasr al-Basha Museum, while construction company owner Jawdat Koudary runs a private one.
But for the time being, Humbert said, any archaeologist in Gaza "is like a mad man running here, running there, to check what is in the process of destruction."
Berretta reported from Jerusalem.
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