Saturday, July 7, 2012

Massive Looting of Archaeological Sites in the "New Egypt"

Awful, horrible, and disgusting.  There is no excuse of this kind of destruction - none, None, NONE!  For whatever reason, the government either cannot or will not provide guards for archaeological sites.  Thus, the new normal in Egypt is rampant destruction and looting of precious archaeological sites.  I'm sure we're only hearing about a fraction of what is actually going on, because for reasons of their own, the new "leaders" in Egypt are doing the old Death To America bullshit and therefore, in some areas, it has become downright dangerous to travel, let alone be a reporter of news to the west. 

I used to dream about visiting Egypt one day and taking a river cruise on the mighty Nile.  Not anymore.

I used to have respect for Egyptians -- not the leaders, I mean, the regular people of Egypt, who seemed to be proud of their ancient heritage and, by and large, caring of it.   Not anymore.

Sad.  So sad.  Once lost, the knowledge that is contained in situ at looted sites like El Hibeh is lost forever.  It cannot ever be put back to the way it was before.

Warning:  There are some shocking photographs in the article.  I chose not to put any of them here.  It makes me cry, this horrid descretion of a sacred place. 

From Popular Archaeology
July 6, 2012

Massive Looting and Destruction at Ancient Egyptian Archaeological Site

After the January 2011 revolution in Egypt, Professor and Archaeologist Carol Redmount of U.C. Berkeley began contacting friends and colleagues in the country to get some updates about their safety and welfare. In 2001, she and a team of archaeologists with the University had conducted excavations at the ancient site of El Hibeh about 180 miles south of Cairo, a site that evidenced occupation from Pharaonic times through the early Islamic periods. Their last season was completed in 2009, and for a variety of reasons they were not able to return. Now, there were concerns about the state of the archaeological remains at the El Hibeh site. She had been informed that there was extensive looting, and that the situation there was "very bad".

"Very bad" may have been an understatement. When she and a team finally returned to begin work at the site again in February, 2012, the scene was more than disheartening. They found hundreds of looters' pits, exposed tombs, destroyed walls, and even human remains, including remnants of dismembered mummies and strewn mummy wraps, littering the site like trash.

"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", wrote Redmount in her Facebook account. "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........our van passed the site heading for the eastern desert highway, [and] we saw about ten men openly looting the mound and desert behind (we have pictures of some of them), with conveniently parked motorcycles nearby."

El Hibeh is not the only site in Egypt that has been subjected to looting and destruction during and since the revolution. There are a number of others. But El Hibeh is especially significant because it is one of the least disturbed sites of the Third Intermediate Period. It was built about 1070 BCE by the High Priests of Amun at Luxor/Thebes and was occupied for over 1,700 years through the Pharaonic, Ptolemaic, Roman, Coptic, and early Islamic periods.

“The damage was so severe to the site, and so ongoing, that I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try and do something,” she told NBC in an interview . “I just felt that if I didn’t come forward, there wasn’t going to be anything left.”

And come forward she did. Her interview was aired recently on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams, and she has established a Facebook page dedicated to getting the word out about El Hibeh's plight, as well as the plight of many other sites in Egypt facing the same threat. More than 1,700 people have joined the group, where Redmount and others have also posted hundreds of photographs illustrating the destruction and news about other threatened sites in Egypt and across the Middle East.

"We started the "Save Hibeh Egypt" facebook page because we are at our wits end as to what else to do........We are posting here pictures of the site, of looting, of articles regarding this issue........We must take action to save El Hibeh and hundreds of other sites like it that have been severely damaged as a result of [only] limited police protection since January 28, 2011."

More information, including photos, of the El Hibeh situation can be seen at the Save El Hibeh Egypt” Facebook group".

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