Monday, March 12, 2012

Save el-Hibeh

Facebook page  Carol Redmount

Go to the above page (which already has 875 members at the time of writing) for photographs and discussion.

From Carol Redmount:

Dear friends, former students, and concerned world citizens: Archaeological sites throughout Egypt are currently being heavily looted, including the critical site of El Hibeh about 3 hours south of Cairo. Once these sites are gone, they are lost forever. It is a non-renewable resource. El Hibeh is of particular importance as it is one of the least disturbed city mounds of the Third Intermediate Period. It was first built probably in 1070 BCE by the High Priests of Amun at Luxor/Thebes and then more or less continually occupied for over 1,700 years so that the site also includes important remains from the Pharaonic, Ptolemaic, Roman, Coptic, and early Islamic periods. We are posting here pictures of the site, of looting, of articles regarding this issue, and hope that you will spread the word, add friends to the group, and notify the press when and where possible. We must take action to save El Hibeh and hundreds of other sites like it that have been severely damaged as a result of limited police protection since January 28, 2011.

I arrived in Egypt in mid-February, signed my contract with the SCA, and was ready to go to work with my team. The day before we were supposed to start work I received a phone call telling me that local Beni Suef security had yanked our permission to work. The upshot was that a local "gangster", whose name is known, from El Ogra, the village north of the site, had formed a sort of mafia focused on looting the site. This "criminal" is evidently a murderer who got out of prison after the revolution. His "gang" is looting the site non-stop, on a massive scale. When I returned to Cairo from our dig house last week and our van passed the site heading for the eastern desert highway, we saw about ten men openly looting the mound and desert behind (we have pictures of some of them), with conveniently parked motorcycles nearby. One of our drivers took the same road this past Friday and reported that again numerous men were busy with wholesale looting of the site in broad daylight. This is an on-going crisis. They are destroying the site. The SCA officials have tried everything they could to get the looting to stop. Nothing seems to be having any effect. This is something police and security seem to be ignoring, turning a blind eye to, or worse. We started the Save Hibeh facebook page because we are at our wits end as to what else to do . . .

And here's Carol Redmont's email to EEF:

We're trying to get as much international media interest as possible on this--it seems to be almost the only really effective tool for embarrassing people into actually doing something about the situation
rather than burying their heads in the sand. If you do know people to pass it on to, also please pass along the contact information for the Egyptian media representative (the one being interviewed in the video) who, as
an Egyptian, is the best one to run with the story. His name is Mohammed Sherdy, his e-mail is, and his phone number (from the States or Canada) is 011-20100-559-9559.

Here's the link to the video:

Weekly Wafd exposes the most Dangerous Gang Looting Antiquities
It’s Leader Escaped from Execution and Has with him tens of Armed Men
March 8, 2012

“While political parties are wrestling to reformulate the constitution and members of parliament are competing to gain as much media attention as they can. While politicians are busy attacking / defending the Military Council and economists are concerned about the bad financial situation of the country. While the Ministry of Interior is busy with the battle over whether to allow beards or not, while other activists are jostling to impose their opinions in the media throughout Egypt and while the elite are busy with these cases, there is a mafia is devoted to looting antiquities what the ancient Egyptian civilization left us. They are no longer practicing their crimes in darkness, but in the middle of the day with bulldozers while the Ministry of Antiquities and the police are in silent!!”

Because the Bulldozer has no heart and the mafia has no conscience, they have destroyed priceless antiquities, demolished temples that were beacons for the world, desecrated tombs and looted mummies leaving them in open air.

Horrible information has emerged about crimes that these antiquities mafia are committing in many areas in Egypt such as in Abu Sir, Abu Rawash, Sakkara and Beni Suef etc. Tones of Egypt’s antiquities have been stolen in the last couple of months, much of it transferred by trucks to hiding places controlled by this mafia.

The Egyptian soil still contains much that excavations continue to find, these excavations are conducted by specialized people under the protection of the state with the support of officials.  Police have withdrawn from all the antiquities sites leaving them to thieves who do what they like.

It is unbelievable what is happening now to our history, you can just go to el Heba, Feshn office, Beni Suef and you would see an example of this wonder.

El Heba contains an exceptional collection of antiquities extending from the Pharaonic dynasties to the Coptic and Islamic Periods.  Antiquities that provide information about three consecutive periods of Egypt’s history.

Because of is very dry environment, the pharaohs chose el-Hiba to establish a Pharaonic archives center where they kept copies of papyrus documents, laws and stories. King Sishonk constructed a large temple similar to the temple of Karnak and sealed his name on every single stone.

Ancient factories were built around the temple and workers built their houses around these factories.  They built two huge cemeteries at the east and west sides of the city and surrounded it with fence to protect it.

When the Coptic era started in Egypt, the place became a unique area containing many Coptic antiquities and the same happened during the Islamic Period.

In short, El Hiba is an example of a rare location that contains antiquities from three different eras, Pharaonic, Coptic and Islamic.  When this city was discovered in 1896 by the Egyptian Egyptologist, Mr. Ahmed Kamal, this was a great discovery.

Foreign missions started to come to this area with the hope of uncovering the antiquities while local police provided a specialist protection to this site. 

As soon as the Egyptian revolution started and the police withdrew, the police left the area to the looters to find these priceless treasures.  The leader of the El Hiba mafia is a man called “Abou Atia,” who escaped an execution order. He has got hold of a bulldozer and hired tens of men equipped with guns and dynamite and are currently digging el Hiba looking for antiquities and gold within the tombs.

However, Abou Atia’s gang took different kind of antiquities from el Hiba, some of these have been moved to private magazines in order to be sold.  Tens of tombs were robbed, some mummies and sarcophagi were kept in places and others were left in the open air, small statues and some golden pieces were also stolen from the tombs.

Abu Atia’s gang has been looking for antiquities for a year now, they have dug 400 holes in the 2km city, the depth of some of these holes is more than 15 meters.

Because of this mafia, the beautiful and the important city of Hiba has turned into a battle field that our predecessors’ skulls and bones scattered all over the ground.  The whole area is covered by holes that these looters have made, the temple, most of the houses and tombs dated to 1700 B.C. are now demolished.

So the Ministry of State for Antiquities has found no one to protect them and it looks as though the Ministry believes that their only possibility is to protect the Egyptian Museum.

Sadly, foreign missions are more concern about Egyptian history / antiquities than the Egyptians themselves.  Are we waiting to ask the international community to interfere to save out heritage after we failed in protect it?

I met with Dr. Carol Redmount, specialist in Egyptian antiquities and a Professor at Berkeley, California and I asked her about what she observed after the latest security chaos.  Sadly she said that the condition of the Egyptian antiquities is painful after the Egyptian authorities left it with no protection against the looters.  She said, I live in Egypt many months every year and I visited all the antiquities sites in Delta and I have a passion for them that I feel they become part of me.

Q.     Did you visit El-Hiba in Beni Suef?
A.     I did, and I spent many years there excavating from 2001 – 2007 under Egyptian     supervision and I returned back in 2009.

Q.    How did you see this area?
A.    It is a complete antique city, very beautiful and the only one that tells how the regular Egyptians used to live in the Pharaonic time because most of the habitants were regular people, farmers or workers.

Q.    Did you know what happened to this area in the past months?
A.    Unfortunately I knew, some people called me and told me about these crimes happened in Al Heba, then I called the people at the inspectorate office and informed them.

Q.    What did they say?
A.    We are so upset

Q.    Just upset?
A.    No, they said they tried to protect the city and they informed the police and asked     for help

Q.    What was the police answer?
A.    Nothing

There is only one meaning to what the antiquities expert said, this is that the Egyptian authorities protect the Egyptian mafia.

I express one phrase to these people who are protecting this mafia, that Dr. Andy Daily, an American Professor of History said to me “I love Egyptian history and every Egyptian must feel shame of what’s happening to the Egyptian antiquities from this mafia”  We really need to feel shame.

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