Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, February 05, 2011

Maia is safe! Thank Heaven.

In a sign that Dr Hawass is learning, he allowed National Geographic journalist Jeffrey Bartholet to tour Saqqara yesterday. The report has just appeared on the National Geographic site. An independent report will do much to reassure. I am sure that Dr Hawass will be highly irritated, probably highly offended, that public opinion at this time requires independent reports rather than accepting his own word.  However, he is a Minister in a Government which has arrested journalists and has a record of media censorship, so many people probably will seek corroboration of anything which seems to have a political dynamic - such as reports of looting during the unrest.

The reporter wasn't an expert, so he doesn't know which tombs he visited - other than Maia, the wet nurse of Tutankhamun.  He didn't actually enter the tomb, reporting:

There had been reports on archaeology blogs that at least one tomb had been badly damaged and looted: the tomb of Maya, treasurer and top adviser to King Tutankhamun. When I asked to see the tomb, Farag took me to a place whose doors were sealed with bricks. This was Maya’s tomb, and it was untouched, he said. I later learned that this tomb didn’t belong to the treasurer Maya. It was that of a second Maya, King Tut’s wet nurse. When I called to ask about the treasurer’s tomb, and others that might have been vulnerable in its vicinity, I was told those too were undamaged. “I’ve seen them during the last week, and Maya is in good shape,” says Hussein, the government archaeologist. “Nothing at all happened there.”
I feel relieved.  I know people have their own focus at Saqqara.  For some it is Maya the Treasurer; for some it is the Serapeum; for some it is Horemheb.  For me it was Maia because I think there is still so much to learn about the family of Tutankhamun and his upbringing - quite apart from it being an exceptionally well-decorated tomb.  I am relieved.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would also say thank god! I hope Hawass will now totally review security at all sites, ie lots and lots of thick steel doors, better paid more professional security staff and contingency plans to mobilise troops quicker in the event of civil unrest.

Dorothy King said...

Yes, but it's interesting that the tombs of Maia and Maya are still getting confused - and here it sounds as if was done almost deliberatly ...

Kate Phizackerley said...

As I said, none of us will rest entirely easily until sealed tombs have been checked by independent experts. That's likely to take some time in the current climate. It does have to happen though and I hope that the pressure will be kept upon the SCA to facilitate it.

I think one thing we could all like to see is greater openess and transparency from the SCA. It's reporting has often been so opaque as to inhobit confidence. I think that is in part why people are presently struggling to believe what the SCA is saying. Over the past few years a credibility gap has opened and for the sake of both the SCA and Egyptology, IMHO a new approach to reporting is overdue.

taichara said...

Yes, but it's interesting that the tombs of Maia and Maya are still getting confused - and here it sounds as if was done almost deliberatly ...

I think deliberate confusion is perhaps reading into the situation a little too much.

Just based on my own conversations with friends, trying to explain the situation -- and with Maia often also spelled "Maya" -- it seems to more be a case of people unfamiliar with the two being confused on account of the "same" name. Saqqara being the area of contention in both cases, and the shared connection to Tutankhamen, likely doesn't help.

Marianne Luban said...

I read on a website that it was the tomb of Maia, Tutankhamun's nurse, that was destroyed. My heart sank. Such beautiful reliefs--but why harm them? There was nothing of intrinsic value in this tomb at all. Madness.

tim said...

Perhaps you do not have enough money to feed your family and live in dignity.

Fragments of ancient hieroglyphs may actually represent only basic necessities to a modern Egyptian?

Anonymous said...

But the ironic thing is Tim by destroying a priceless unique heritage you are likely denying many future Egyptian families the ability to also feed themselves and live in dignity.

tim said...

Agreed

Kate Phizackerley said...

I don't want things to get politicised so maybe we should concentrate on the present integrity of sites and leave speculation about how sites came to be attacked?

Kate Phizackerley said...

Marianne, we now have reason for optimism were Maia is concerned. What is desperately needed is an internal inspection of Maya. That for me is becoming key, probably alongside inspections of Horemheb, Unas and the Serapeum. If those four are unharmed then I'll believe the reports of looting were exaggerated. Until we get cameras inside, I will continue to worry. For me they are the litmus.

Stephanie said...

I am still somewhat unconvinced because actually the reporter did not see the inside of any tomb.
One was bricked up, the others were only said to be unharmed. And this information was given by someone belonging to the government, too, so has to be taken with at least a grain of salt.
I do so hope that it turns out to be the truth!

Kate Phizackerley said...

You are right Stephanie. My desire for Maia to be safe led me to over-optimism. Re-reading the report, I don't believe he entered any tomb, let alone those reportedly raided. Having slept on it, what wasn't displayed makes the report more worrying than reassuring.

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