Friday, February 04, 2011

Friday updates on the Egypt situation


22:36: Lee Rosenbaum has posted on the CultureGrrl blog that she has received a report about Saqqara that seems to contradict the reports that Hawass has been issuing. Again, it is difficult to get to the truth, but see her account for details. From this account it seems that a lot of harm has been done at the site.

18:07 - El Ahram Online quotes three UK museums (the British Museum, the Manchester Museum, and the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology) on the need for the international community to be on high alert for looted antiquities being smuggled out of Egypt.

16:03 - Jonathan Jones has updated his blog on The Guardian website to express his concerns about the failure of the media to cover heritage issues in Egypt, in particular the Egyptian Museum in Cairo: "If petrol bombs were being thrown in St Marks Square in Venice, or outside the British Museum, what would reports say? We would never stop hearing about the threat to humanity's cultural heritage. Yet, as I scan the news sites for the latest reports from Cairo, it is strange how little stress has been placed on the unique importance and fragility of the contents of the Egyptian Museum, which stands at the very heart of the unfolding tragedy. " Some of the comments in response are quite simply dreadful.

15:50 - The website has been updated with another statement from Hawass. He reiterates that Saqqara is safe and says that he cannot understand why he is not believed. On that subject he says: "From the first day of protests, I have had an operation room running 24 hours in my Zamalek office. This operation room is connected by telephone with every museum and site in Egypt: Jewish synagogues, Coptic monasteries, Muslim mosques, and ancient Pharaonic, Greek, and Roman sites. We have been producing detailed reports daily. I hope that people all over the world will read my statements and not listen to rumors." Hawass expresses gratitude for offers of help with restoration but says that they have all the expertise they need to complete the job. There's no new information on the page, although it is a lengthy report in which Hawass expresses personal opinions about the state of Egypt and foreign responses.

12:57 - A tourism analyst (whose name I missed, for which my apologies) just shown on BBC News 24 says that she spoke by phone to one of the Giza pyramid camel-ride salesmen. He that the descent of horse and camel drivers on Tahrir Square was partly pro-Mubarak and partly anti-Hawass, the latter a reaction to Hawass's promise to remove all forms of ride seller from the plateau. More a comment about managing tourism than heritage but I thought that it might be of interest.

12:47. I've done another trawl through all the Egyptian dig diaries of which I know and the only one updated so far is the El Lahun blog (at the mouth of the Faiyum) which says that they have information from a source close to the SCA. The post says: "Sites are generally in poor condition, traces of illicit diggings have been observed here and there. There was a fortunately unsuccessful attempt of looting the Karanis (Kom Aushim) magazine which is now guarded and protected by inspectors of the SCA and local people. No objects have been stolen."

11:25 - The archaeologist quoted as a source for the reports on Saqqara in this story is anonymous but the story appears on the journal Science, which doesn't deal in rumour, so it could have some basis in fact. He or she is reported as having said that as many as 200 looters bad been digging for treasure in the area over last weekend "before police resecured the area". The archaeologist additionally reported that the tomb of Maya, the wet nurse of King Tutankhamun, was "completely destroyed." The statement from Hawass yesterday denied any problems at Saqqara and it is terribly frustrating not to know which of the various reports to believe, if any.
The same report says that the situation in Luxor continues to be stable. One archaeologist, Raymond Johnson, who heads the University of Chicago team, says that no damage has been done to any of the sites and that his team resumed work on Sunday. He says that all of the teams are keeping a check on one another and that tour buses continue to arrive.

11:21 - UCLA's website has an article about how the UCLA team were instructed to stop work at Amarna and leave, in spite of apparent safety and the request of the team to stay, and how the return of team members home was co-ordinated. Also covered on Daily Bruin.

11:02 - Inevitably there have been and will be a number of articles about the role of Zahi Hawass in the current climate and/or in his new position. There's a lot of discussion about him the Restore + Save Facebook page. Author Robert Weisman fancies Hawass for Prime Minister. Finally there is one on the New Yorker (Protecting Egypt's Heritage by Samantha Henig) which is only available to read by subscribers for by individual purchase.

10:54 - Media-Newswire has the summary of an interview with Bob Brier in which he is quoted saying that the Egyptian Museum has an expert on hand to restore the damaged items: "On the staff of the Egyptian Museum is Nadia Lokma, one of the best experts on wood conservation in the world. For her master’s thesis she restored Tutankhamen's chariot, a project that took years. I guarantee you, she is already planning how to restore the broken Tutankhamen objects to their former glory."

10:51 - Kate has posted a link to a disturbing article about smuggling in Libya on The National which, as she says, points to the worrying existance of well worn channels available for smugglers of antiquities.

10:48 - I have a busy day today so I'll be keeping up to date with the situation in Egypt but there will be no standard Egyptology posts today (those should be back again tomorrow). If it's any consolation I posted the most important Egyptology news items from the backlog yesterday.

My previous updates on the events unfolding in Egypt, as they relate to heritage and archaeology personnel:

1 comment:

AliceG said...

One of the comments - Life is for the living not the dead. OMG, are people that stupid? If it weren't for the dead in Egypt there would be no economy. Therefore, no living.