Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday - updates as they arrive

16:47 - Damage has been reported at Giza, with thanks to Owen Jarus for the report on his excellent blog. Owen has provided an update from Dr Gerry Scott of the ARCE. Here's an exerpt but see Owen's above page for the full story:

The bad news is that there is antiquities damage at the Giza Pyramids. Mark Lehner and his team are currently working there.

“I’ve heard that the team lost some equipment and that there was some damage to the antiquities but I do not know the extent of that at this point,” he said. He also does not know what exactly was damaged. The Egyptian army is now guarding the pyramids and access has been restricted.

Lehner’s team has halted their work for the time being. “The latest I’ve heard is that they are not working until the SCA has had a chance to record what’s happened there.”

One piece of good news is that looters attempted to enter Karnak temple last night but were turned back by local citizens.

16:39 - Thanks Kat, as ever! reports that The German Archaeological Institute in Berlin (DAI) have requested that some of its 30 egyptologists in Cairo should stay in shared accommodation for their own safety. The DAI have had someone looking after their offices 24 hours a day to protect it against looters. The DAI also say that no German archaeologists are working at any of the German dig sites in Luxor or Aswan at the moment.

16:13 - Report on the subject of threats to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, from the UK's Guardian newspaper's Live Updates:
"Soldiers have detained about 50 men trying to break into the Egyptian National Museum in the last two days, the military said today. I should mention that there have been concerns that some reports of looting have been exaggerated to give an impression of lawlessness, thereby justfiying a heavy-handed crackdown. From the Associated Press: Snipers were stationed on the roof of the building, and dozens of troops patrolled the grounds of the famed antiquities museum amid fears that the chaos sweeping Cairo could engulf the nation's heritage. Some of the most intense anti-government protests in the past week happened near the museum. On Monday, half a dozen suspected thieves lay in a group on the floor of the entrance, their faces covered by a blanket. Guards said they were caught trying to enter. A military general at the museum said soldiers arrested about 35 men trying to break into the building on Sunday, and another 15 on Monday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Troops said they were given orders not to shoot, but to protect the building and its contents."

- Thanks to EEF for this link to a Reuters report on the looting of Qantara Museum, near Ismailia in the eastern Delta: "A group of looters attacked a warehouse at the Qantara Museum near the city of Ismailia on the Suez Canal that contained 3,000 objects from the Roman and Byzantine periods, a source at the tourism police said. Many of the objects had been found in Sinai by the Israelis after they occupied the peninsula during the 1967 war with Egypt, and had only been recently returned to Egypt. A worker at the warehouse said the looters had said they were searching for gold. The worker told them there was no gold but they continued to pillage the storehouse, smashing some items and taking others."

13:54 - The Toronto Star has reported on some of the new cabinet members (at last - I've been searching the web for ages for a few details!). From a heritage point of view there are two very significant changes: "The longest-serving Cabinet minister, Culture Minister Farouq Hosni, was replaced by Gaber Asfour, a widely respected literary figure. Egypt’s most famous archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, was named state minister for antiquities, a new post."

13:45 - The burned out building of the NDP (ruling party) headquarters has just been shown on the BBC and looks as though it is relatively in tact and therefore hopefully not in danger of collapse. It is immediately near to the Egyptian Museum and there were concerns, particularly on Saturday, that the fire might move to the museum or that the building might collapse on top of the museum. Those concerns seem to be on hold for the time being.

13:39 - Thanks to Joris Van Wetering who has sent me the news from a report that the Egyptian military says it has detained about 50 people who were trying to steal artefacts in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Snipers are now stationed on the roof of the building, and dozens of soldiers are patrolling the grounds, according to the Associated Press.

13:15 - BBC News 24 has just reported that the Egyptian State television has announced that all trains in Egypt are cancelled.

- Thanks to Beverley Butler from UCL for this link to a U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield statement of concern regarding the risk to heritage in Egypt. It is signed by a number of important organizations. Most importantly they call on United States and European law enforcement agencies to be on the alert over the next several months for the possible appearance of looted Egyptian antiquities at their borders. The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield is a charitable nonprofit organization committed to the protection of cultural property worldwide during armed conflict.

- Thanks very much to the EES website for the news that the EES team in Luxor are all fine. Here's their statement: "The EES team working at Luxor are all safe and well, but are not now being allowed to work on the west bank, so decided it would be prudent to return home (and without going back to Cairo). Sarah Jones flew out of Luxor yesterday and Angus Graham and Kris Stutt will be back in the UK on Wednesday. The second part of this important new EES work is scheduled for later in the spring and we hope that the team will be able to return then."

- Jonathan Jones (a writer on art topics) has posted on The Guardian's website saying that the Egyptian Museum collections should be protected during the current turmoil, highlighting the importance of the museum. I don't think that anyone would argue with him, and things t the museum seem to be under control at the moment.

12:17 - Thomson has cancelled all outbound flights from the UK to Cairo and Luxor. See their statement on the Thomson website for more information if you are planning to go on a Thomson holiday to Egypt in the near future.

11:19 - A report from the Washington Post focuses on the risk to antquities and quotes a mobile telephone conversation with Hawass. There's not a lot additional information to that he has posted on his own website. The report says that Hawass took a team of students to the museum on Saturdy morning, arriving to find that the keys to the museum had been stolen. He is still saying that nothing has been stolen from the Cairo Museum, and that all damaged items can be restored. After an hour they broke in to find that around 100 artifacts had been broken, probably in a search for gold, but "none were really precious." The report says that 13 display cases were smashed on the museum's top floor, before the looteres entered the Tutankhamun galleries, where more artifacts were damaged.

Hawass said he is still trying to assess damage to sites outside of Cairo. The article also says that Egyptologists and Egyptian officials have expressed concern about ongoing looting at Saqqara. Fred Hiebert, an archaeology fellow with the National Geographic Society pointed out that the potential for damage is greater than at Afghanistan and Iraq because the location of sites is so well known due to tourism. As he says "the whole country is a museum."

Hawass says that attempts to enter other museums including the Coptic Museum, the Royal Jewelery Museum, the National Museum of Alexandria, and El Manial Museum were unsuccessful.

Hawass has also been talking to Time Magazine, with much the same information.

- Thanks again to Boris A Trivan, this time for the information that a friend of his has been in telephone contact with Barry kemp who leads the Amarna team currently working in Middle Egypt. They are safe but their operations have been shut down by the security police, and they are returning to Cairo before trying to get flights home.

- Thanks to Jan Picton from the Petrie Museum for this link to which quotes antiquities official Mohamed Megahed saying that According to antiquities official Mohamed Megahed who says that at Saqqara storage facilities in South Saqqara, have been looted and that only the nearby Imhotep Museum and adjacent central areas are being guarded by the military. He says that in Abusir all tombs were opened with "large gangs digging day and night.” I guess that we'll just have to wait and see how much damage has actually taken place when officials have had a chance to inventory the situation at individual sites.

10:45 - I'm just working through the news from last night and will update throughout the day as before. If people want to follow the situation in Egypt for themselves I recommend the Al Jazeera website, which is available in English. BBC News 24 on TV is also providing full coverage, with a lot of analysis. There's not much news from anywhere that I can find about the situation outside Cairo so if anyone finds anything from reliable sources please let me know.

Please check out Kate's site as well, as we are finding different news items although there will inevitably be some duplication as we are both keeping up to date on today's stories.

There are lots of my usual Egyptology news stories piling up and those are not forgotten, and I will post them in the next few days, but at the moment I am keeping my focus on the state of affairs in Egypt.


Unknown said... the moment I am keeping my focus on the state of affairs in Egypt.

And we thank you a lot for that, Andie.

Stuart Tyler said...

Thanks for the updates Andie. I am deeply saddened by the recent events in Egypt. I never thought i would see the day that we would ever have to read these items.

I feel helpless. Do you know if there is anything that can be done from outside Egypt to help?


Andie said...

Hi Stuart. I don't think that there is anything you can do to help. A lot of people have asked the same question and I share your frustration - but for those of us outside Egypt I think we are stuck with watching and waiting.

AliceG said...

It could be worse. And, sad to say, it's not over yet. I guess I haven't said thank you for your fantastic reporting. You make it so easy for people like me to keep up.


kat newkirk said...

Americans can call their congressmen and senators, asking them to alert the customs service to be careful to screen for smuggled artifacts. And contact our museums to work with customs to help identify same, and arrange safe storage for same until stability is achieved and repatriation possible.

Stuart Tyler said...

Thanks for the response Andie. Watching the developments feels almost "wrong". There have been many bloggers and tweeters who are doing a great job in keeping us informed so thanks.