|05 March 2011
Zahi Hawass: Since Revolution Ousting Mubarak Egyptian Antiquities Destroyed
The Egyptian revolution that toppled the regime of
President Hosni Mubarak
last month, was a celebration for democracy. Yet the cost of the
upheaval may weigh heavily on the priceless antiquities of Egypt.
This week the fear and trepidation of Dr Zahi Hawass,
Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, was clear as he expressed his
concern about the safety of Egyptian treasures.
The looting and tomb raiding of the antiquities Egypt
would be a loss to the entire world, and yet it seems with the
dysfunctional political situation in Egypt that may be exactly what is
“Since Mubarak’s resignation, looting has increased all over the country,
and our antiquities are in grave danger from criminals trying to take
advantage of the current situation,” said Hawass.
As the political chaos spread through Cairo in
January, 2011, criminals and looters took advantage of the weakness of
security around the Egyptian Museum.
Initially guards, volunteers and anyone with an
interest in saving the antiquities struggled to hold off the looting and
destruction of items owned by the museum.
While much was saved, mummies were destroyed, and 18
items stolen including the statue of Akhenaten
. Of the 18 at least 4 have been recovered, including Akhenaten’s
statue that was found and returned by a young protester hidden near the
Even through some items have been returned, the
vulnerability of the collection was clear, presenting a significant
tragedy for the people of Egypt.
As the new government struggles to establish itself
throughout Egypt already the authorities have disclosed that looting
across the country has taken place.
Some attacks have had limited damage, others have left antiquities destroyed.
A statue from the 19th dynasty, Ken-Amun, was
completely destroyed, while in Giza the tomb of Impy, built near the
Great Sphinx was broken into.
It’s not only opportunistic, some looters are
thoroughly organized and well equipped. With guns and a clear
strategy, guards outside the Selim Hassan magazine were overpowered on
March 1, 2011.
In Saqqara, thieves smashed padlocks on tombs to enter, raid and steal objects.
As the government struggles to reform, to create a new
direction for Egypt police efforts are being directed into establishing
law and order.
With a nation in which history is being made, cracks
in the infrastructure are inevitable, yet in the case of Egypt where the
cost is enormous for both Egypt and the entire world as history is
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