Monday, January 17, 2011

The tomb of Tut -- what does Zahi Hawass intend to do?

A Don's Life (Mary Beard)

Two things to start with. First, there is obviously a big problem in the Valley of the Kings. If you have 60 odd tombs that for more than 3000 years were intended to be shut off from human contact, and you open them to widespread (though hardly "mass") tourism, you have a problem. Tourist sweat certainly erodes painting.

Secondly, I have never been much of an admirer of Zahi Hawass, the current supremo of Egyptian Antiquities . . . a master archaeological showman to be sure, but it is not yet clear how much more than that he is. It is apparently his brainchild to close off as many of the "real" tombs as possible to ordinary visitors. And it is certainly not clear how confident we should be in his proud claims to "know best". "I'm the guardian, I know what is good for their preservation" he is quoted as saying.

May be that's true. But we have, of course, heard that before -- from generations of expert, well meaning, highly-qualified conservationists charged with looking after the world's heritage. And as many disasters as successes have been the result.

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