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jueves, 10 de marzo de 2011

Egypt's Archaeological Sites Stand Unguarded

Concerned archaeologists called today on Egypt’s Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to return police to archaeological sites. The move is required to put an end to illegal excavations and wild looting of storehouses and tombs.

“The desecration of archaeological sites and monuments is not only a huge loss for the people of Egypt on a national, economic, and human level, but is also a loss to all of humanity and to science,” Tarek El Awadi, director of the National Egyptian museum, said in an open letter to Sharaf.

Following the revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak last month, a new unprecedented wave of looting and vandalism took place at various sites in Egypt.

“During the revolution of January 25th, the Egyptian Army protected our heritage sites and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. However, in the last 10 days the army has left these posts because it has other tasks to do,” said Zahi Hawass, who resigned this week as minister of antiquities in protest at the lack of proper action on the looting.

“The group now in charge of the protection of these sites is the Tourist Police, but there are no Tourist Police to do this either,” Hawass said.

In the past few weeks, looters have removed inscribed blocks from tombs at Saqqara, Giza and Abusir, and even tried to cut into pieces a colossal red granite statue of the 19th Dynasty king Ramesses II at the southern quarry of Aswan.

One of the biggest losses is the tomb of the royal scribe Ken Amun in Tell el-Maskhuta, near Ismailia. Dating to the 19th Dynasty B.C (1315-1201 B.C.), the burial is the first ever Ramesside-period tomb uncovered in Lower Egypt.

Discovered last year, the burial featured beautifully decorated walls which are now a lost memory. Sadly, the site has been completely destroyed.

“Everyday, in the morning, I am waiting for news. What has been robbed today? What has been stolen today?” Hawass said. He will remain in his office until the government announce his successor.

Meanwhile, holding together on social networks, Egyptologists and archaeologists have started an international petition campaign to call for the restoration of adequate security to the sites, storehouses, monuments and antiquities of Egypt.

"The situation is certainly quite dire indeed," Andrew Bayuk, who started the petition, told Discovery News.

"This petition is an opportunity for the field of Egyptology to unite for a single purpose, and invite the support of other concerned people throughout the world to make a strong global statement," Bayuk, who created Guardian's Egypt, one of the oldest ancient Egypt website, said.

Photo: Statue of Ramesses II with visible cut marks on the front of the crown. Courtesy of SCA

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