Thursday, March 3, 2011

Zahi Hawass Resigns as Egypt's Antiquities Minister

I never thought I'd see the day!  I thought he would go on forever, like the Curse of the Mummy.  Here's the news from The New York Times:

March 3, 2011, 1:25 pm
Egyptian Antiquities Chief Says He’s Out
After Egypt’s prime minister resigned on Thursday and the army asked his replacement to form a caretaker cabinet, Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s powerful and controversial antiquities chief, said he would not be part of the new government. His comments came after he posted on his Web site for the first time a list of dozens of sites that have been looted since the beginning of the uprising that led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. [I knew that reassurances from the government that wholesale looting was not taking place were white-wash.  Will we ever know the true extent of what has been stolen from the heritage of all Egyptian people?]

Reached by telephone Mr. Hawass, a member of the previous cabinet, said he was happy that he had made the “right decision” and lashed out at colleagues who have criticized him, including one who has accused him of smuggling antiquities.

Among the places Mr. Hawass named as having been looted were the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s storerooms at its excavation site in Dahshur, south of Cairo. In a statement the Met’s director, Thomas P. Campbell, described that incident as having taken place several weeks ago.

Mr. Campbell expressed alarm about continuing looting, calling it “a grave and tragic emergency.” In a statement, which was issued before Mr. Hawass’s resignation was confirmed, he said:

“The world cannot sit by and permit unchecked anarchy to jeopardize the cultural heritage of one of the world’s oldest, greatest and most inspiring civilizations. We echo the voices of all concerned citizens of the globe in imploring Egypt’s new government authorities, in building the nation’s future, to protect its precious past. Action needs to be taken immediately.”

Well, Mr. Campbell, what do you want the "world" to do? Invade Egypt and put all antiquities under UN guard??? Have the "world" mount an invasion and "rescue" mission??? Should be airlift the Great Pyramid block by block and rebuild it in Moscow? Put Pepi's tomb in Omaha? No - I've got it - near Fort Knox!

As could be expected, this article generated lots of comments at the NYT. I have never been a fan of Zahi Hawass but I think it's outrageous that some people are suggesting he is guilty of looting antiquities. If Hawass is one thing, it is totally dedicated to preserving the ancient history of Egypt. I think he's made a mistake stepping down when he is needed most but, let's see what happens. I assume a new Minister will be appointed - soon, let's hope, and that he (doubt it will be a she) will be given the tools he needs to guard the vast ancient resources of Egypt.

Meanwhile, you can read the man's words at his blog.  Will his blog disappear soon?  Will Dr. Hawass go riding into the sunset, never to be seen nor heard from again?

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