Thursday saw the 16th annual conference of archaeological experts convene in Jerusalem's City of David.

Entitled "From Jerusalem to Babylon and Back," the conference had an extra significance this year with the unprecedented, public destruction of ancient antiquities by the brutal Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group in both Iraq and Syria.

But speaking to Arutz Sheva, Colonel Matthew Bogdanos of the US Marine Corps Reserves explained that the scale of destruction of antiquities deemed "idolatrous" in places like Syria's ancient Palmyra, pales in comparison to ISIS's looting of priceless artifacts to fund its murderous campaign.

"They're not destroying everything. It's important to understand that for every item that we see the Islamic State destroying on camera there are hundreds of others that are lining their pockets through the illegal antiquities trade.

"They have taken looting to a whole new level, and illegal antiquities trafficking, antiquities from Syria and Iraq, are financing their terror."

According to archaeologist Dr. Donald Sanders, selling irreplaceable artifacts on the black market is effectively as bad as destroying them.

"It's obviously a great historical misfortune, because whether they're destroyed or whether they go in the hands of private collectors they still disappear from knowledge and history, and we won't be able to study and learn from them ever again."

Israel has been leading the way in protecting religious and historical antiquities, Col. Bogdanos said, praising the Jewish state's "extraordinarily professional security force" to protect heritage sites, which he hailed as "second to none."

"But the reality is that many other countries do not have such forces," he lamented.

Also at the conference was leading Israeli archaeologist and Israel Prize winner Dr. Gabi Barkai, who noted that destruction of non-Muslim antiquities by Islamist extremists was not confined to ISIS.

The Islamic Waqf authorities on the Temple Mount were mounting an equally "barbaric" campaign to destroy any Jewish artifacts which conflict with their narrative of the site as a Muslim one.

"The Muslims are responsible for the destruction that's going on on the Temple Mount - a barbaric destruction," he said. "The Waqf is destroying everything, even Muslim antiquities, just like ISIS."