Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, February 28, 2011

Excerpts from recent comments on News from the Valley of the Kings are shown in the righthand sidebar, but space is tight so I have added a new Recent Comments page as well.  This shows 20 comments initially but if you click on "Show more comments" it will show a total of 50.  With the extra space, I am also showing the first 999 characters (almost always the entire comment) rather than just the snippets I can squeeze into the sidebar.

For those who enjoy the discussions here, I hope this make it easier to follow what people have been saying.  As always, if there are any problems please let me know.

You can access the new page in the grey menu bar by clicking on Recent Comments.  (I removed "Old Kingdom" as I have abandoned that in favour of the magazine Andie and I are launching soon.)

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, February 26, 2011

There have been some problems recently of comments which have vanished after they had  been posted and even after thay had appeared!  It seems that Blogger has changed its spam filter and some comments are wrongly getting flagged as spam and I hadn't realised that Blogger was doing that.  I've just retrieved 8 comments that had been wrongly marked as spam over the past few weeks.  My apologies.  Now I know about it, when I post I'll also check no comments have been wrongly flagged as spam.

My guess is that it is an issue mostly affecting people who are posting anonymously or with a Name/URL.  It doesn't seem to gave affected those with a Google account for instance.

Anybody else with a blog on Blogger might wish to check their own spam queue! 

My apologies again.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, February 26, 2011

There is at last some news on the principal museums in Christchurch, New Zealand and it is generally good.  The modern Art Gallery was so well built that it has become a civil defence centre for the relief effort. The article also has a report from the Director of the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch who says that the building is sound.  That is good news because there was initial concern that this older building might have been been badly damaged.  The Director also says that 95% of the collection is safe, although in disarray; the remaining 5% will require assessment.  He should be congratulated for offering a balanced statement and so quickly in difficult circumstances. There is a further report from a couple who were visiting the Canterbury Museum when the quake struck. The museum has a small Egyptian section including this nice coffin and a rather fine Osiris.  I have not seen any reports of serious injuries to those in either building.

(I wouldn't normally cover this, but at the moment there is such a focus on the safety of heritage that I have been searching for this news myself.  So far I have seen no reports out of Libya which of course is culturally very rich and has strong historic ties to Egypt.)

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, February 26, 2011

With 83 comments (and counting!) on the  latest post about Tutankhamun DNA analysis, you might have missed a link to an article Marianne Luban wrote some time ago.  This is what Marianne had to say about it in the comment she left:


The "wayback machine" saved an old article of mine, written years ago, called "Queen Tiye and the Co-regency", which discusses what the archaeological record indicates about a possible co-regency between Akhenaten and Amenhotep III. The age-at-death of the mummy called the "Elder Lady" was an important consideration, even though at this time DNA had not confirmed her identity. For anyone interested in the possibility of a co-regency, the article is here:
http://www.oocities.org/scribelist/queentiye.htm
As Marriane says, it was written before the DNA testing which showed pretty conclusively that The Elder Lady and Queen Tiye are one and the same, but that just adds to the article.   If you haven't been following the discussion on the post about Tutankhamun DNA analysis then it really is worth reading them through as there is some excellent debate.  The comments also have more commentary from Marianne on her old article.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, February 26, 2011

Andie reports that Barry Kemp has issued an email circular asking for donations to help with repairs to the North Palace  Their needs are modest, just £2,800 in total, although I am sure that any more would be put to good use.  (Barry says in the newsletter - below - that the next project will be the Great Aten Temple.)  I have always said that I will not put adverts on News from the Valley of the Kings, but I am happy to promote donations to Egyptian missions.  Whenever Amarna comes up in our discussions, it is always very popular so I am not embarassed to say that I would be delighted if people made a small donation.  Since I am not working my own donation was small, but dozens of small donations would add up very fast.  You can find out more about the Amarna Project, and make a donation if you wish, here. They have also released the latest newsletter - Horizon No 8 which is also available from that link.

Oh, and Barry is about to head back to Amarna on Monday to resume work for the season!

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, February 26, 2011

People have been wondering what would happen to the NDP building next to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.  It looks as though it will be demolished and replaced with gardens. I think that is how it used to be. Very good for the museum of course as it will improve its setting considerably. Everybody will also be more comfortable when the burned-out shell is safely demolished.

I hope this does happen.

Http://bikyamasr.com/wordpress/?p=28713&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, February 24, 2011

This is a story from Ahram Online:

Last night looters sneaked into the southern quarry of the upper Egyptian city of Aswan in an attempt to cut and remove the statue of King Ramses II. The statue is half buried in the sand as it was originally cut in red granite and left in situ. Following an immediate report from the quarry’s security guards, archaeologists along with security personal headed directly to the site where they caught the thieves red handed.
 The article has a few more details and some pictures of the colossal statue. Worrying if looters think they could get away with stealing a 160 ton statue.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, February 23, 2011

There is a worrying report that Egypt's ancient monasteries are under threat.  The report comes from the U.S. Copts Association so it is a one-sided report, but I think it is probably factually accurate all the same.


“Three monasteries have been attacked by outlaws and have asked for protection from the armed forces, but were told to defend themselves.” said activist Mark Ebeid. “When the terrified monks built fences to protect themselves, armed forces appeared only then with bulldozers to demolish the fences. It is worth noting that these monasteries are among the most ancient in Egypt, with valuable Coptic icons and manuscripts among others, which are of tremendous value to collectors.”
The full details are in the article. Separately, a Coptic priest has also been found murdered, although it is unclear whether religion was a motive.  There has also been religious tension in Cairo.

The newly sworn in cabinet does, however, include two Coptic Christians which gives some grounds for optimism.  I am not sure whether the Culture Ministry or the Ministry for Antiquities is responsible for the ancient monasteries.  In fact a new cabinet was sworn in today and I cannot find a list to confirm whether or not the Ministry for Antiquities survived as a separate ministry or whether it has been re-absorbed into the Ministry for Culture.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Britons are no longer advised against travel to Egypt. The new guidance highlights some of the risks but these seem comparable to some other tourist destinations like Thailand.  Bookings will be down but tourists should start reappearing in all areas.

Http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/middle-east-north-africa/egypt

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, February 21, 2011

I don't believe I have promoted this site before.  As the site says:

The excavation, restoration, conservation and site management of the Temple of Thutmosis III, in Luxor’s West Bank first began in 2008 through a collaborative project between the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquity and the Academy of Fine Arts, Seville-Spain.

The team is directed by Dr. Myriam Seco Álvarez and Dr. Atia Radwan. Both coordinate the investigations at the Temple of Millions of Years, built by a pharaoh considered to be the “Napoleon” of Ancient Egypt and among the most important pharaohs of the New Kingdom.
The site has some background on the project and an update for the winter 2010 season which was completed in December.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, February 21, 2011

Spiegel Online has run an interesting interview with Dr Hawass in which at last he criticises the withdrawal of the police.  It is worth reading, although Google Translate always struggles with translation from German.

If the article is interesting, the accompanying photo gallery is excellent.  Photo 9 for instance shows the Akhenaten statue in its case with a clear picture of a small carved head next to it.  Is this the stolen head?  We don't know as there has been no official word, but it would make sense.  It is worth reviewing all of the photos as they are a good collection.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Sunday, February 20, 2011

All sites are in Egypt were supposed to have re-opened.  Whether it is particularly easy to get to some sites yet is perhaps somewhat questionable, but hopefully the situation should quickly revert to normal.

Ahram Online says that some museums are still shut, but doesn't specify which, although it does confirm some which have re-opened.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, February 19, 2011

This is another BBC radio broadcast.  The main segment starts at 26:14. It doesn't add much new but we do have the oddity of a BBC journalist saying (starting 28:34) that the Egyptian Museum was well-protected against theft but Dr Hawass sharply contradicts.  It's a strange world when an official's reputation is best defended by saying that a museum he was responsible for was vulnerable to illegal entry.  Again, Hawass says that had it been an inside job, they would have taken a masterpiece ... erm, not famous statues of Tutankhamun then.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, February 19, 2011

Somehow I managed to miss this account of the break in, presented in a National Geographic blog of a tour in which the Museum Director, Tarek El Awady, explained the sequence of events to Jeffrey Bartholet.  It contains some genuinely unique details,  for instance concerning the case the intruder is said to have fallen upon when dropping from the skylight:

Tthe intruder apparently lost his grip and fell, crashing on a showcase holding a coffin, scepters, and sticks belonging to Mesehti, a prince of the 12th dynasty, around 2000 B.C. “Surprisingly, the coffin and the other relics with it are completely fine,” notes Awady. “They need no restoration at all.”
There is more about the damage to the boat.  Apparently the intruder was carrying an heavy metal hammer which he threw down before he descended himself:

the heavy metal hammer he had apparently tossed from the window before he descended. The hammer smashed a case with a small pharaonic boat that, according to tradition, would have accompanied Mesehti on his journey to the afterlife.

I have a problem with that as the boat doesn't give the impression of having been smashed from the top by a metal hammer which have been dropped from 30' above.  It would surely have smashed through the deck.  Also, the case is smashed at the side.  It isn't clear whether the top of the case is also smashed, but there doesn't seem to be broken glass consistent with a smashed top.  Also, as shown in the photos, the side of the boat case which is smashed is not next to the case holding the coffin etc.

The main discrepancy with earlier stories is that apparently alarms were activated, "Amid the chaos, museum officials and police knew that one or more people had entered the main building when motion sensors set off alarms."  According to this version of the break in, this should have been sufficient to prevent theft because there were 65 police on duty; however, "The head of the museum police says that his men, about 65 in all, were far outnumbered..."   Outnumbered, that is, by between one and four men who were inside the museum.  Egyptian Museum arithmetic seems to be different to that used by the rest of the world.

Dr Hawass has been criticised for his inaccurate reporting, but Bartholet effectively alleges that Awady did the same, saying:
... he came to a case holding two small statues of King Tutankhamun, one portraying him atop a black leopard, another showing him spearing fish from a boat. The thief broke the glass but tossed the statues aside. “He thought they were gold, because the statues are gilded,” says Awady. “When he found out they were not gold, but wood, he threw them on the floor.”
 That is, according to Bartholet Awady explicitly said that the statue of Tutankhamun with harpoon was thrown in the floor - even though it later appears in the list of stolen objects.

Every account I read of this break in adds to my confusion, rather than reduces it. 

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 18, 2011

Noel O'Neill has been has been working on the identification of the statues again:

The figure of Tutankhamun harpooning on a papyrus skiff that was stolen is (JE 60710) . The base that the second figure is standing on has a large split from under the skiff to front of the base. (JE 60709). See page 130 of the complete Tutankhamun by Dr Nicholas reeves.

Dr Hawass in his own web site is showing the photo of (JE 60709) as the stolen figure and this is not helping.

The is no computer data base of the artefacts in the Cairo museum. They are still using the big leather ledgers and some are nearly 100 years old.  So trying to check what has been stolen from the museum is going to be very slow. Dr Hawass in a past interview said that he hoped to have a up to date data base by the time the Grand Egyptian Museum opens, and that is not for another two years. Both Dr Reeves and Dr Hawass in there books on Tutankhamun use the tomb numbers that Howard Carter gave each artefact, and if Dr Hawass is not using the museum numbers what hope for the rest of us.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 18, 2011

It shows how fast Egypt is modernising.  The Egyptian Armed Forces now have their own Facebook page

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 18, 2011

Although journalists were allowed inside the Egyptian Museum on Wednesday, I have found very little online video footage.  There this Russian video, with a pigeon-English commentary that is going to irritate you.

This is a similar report from the BBC, with a rather better commentary.  Please take a look at the cabinet shown at 0:54.  Can anybody identify the statue shown?  It is suggested to Dr Hawass that the raid involved professional thieves.  He says not, because no masterpieces were taken.  That's a true Zahism.  I suspect he means they did not take the mask; however, the security for the mask was much tighter and it is also very heavy, so it is not surprising they didn't take it.  The BBC commentrary criticises the museum for it's obvious lack of climate control and modern security and asks where all the money raised from access charges has gone?  Others are going to be asking that question in the weeks to come.

Much the best of the bunch is a French video which includes two women who question the official version of the theft and believe that the looters had a key.  (Early reports suggested that the museum keys had been stolen.) I have embedded this one if you prefer:

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, February 17, 2011

From Dr Hawass (my bold):

I am very sad to announce that several important antiquities sites have been vandalized. After a preliminary inventory had been taken, Dr. Sabri Abdel Aziz, Head of the Pharaonic Sector of the Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs, reported to me the following incidents: At Saqqara, the tomb of Hetepka was broken into, and the false door may have been stolen along with objects stored in the tomb. I have arranged for a committee to visit the tomb this coming Saturday to compare the alleged damage with earlier expedition photos. In Abusir, a portion of the false door was stolen from the tomb of Rahotep. In addition, break-ins have been confirmed at a number of storage magazines: these include ones in Saqqara, including one near the pyramid of Teti, and the magazine of Cairo University.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, February 17, 2011

Retrieved Akhenaten Offering Statue - Photo by Ahmed Amin
It is now official: the statues is back in the Egyptian Museum. I wanted to include the photograph to show that it is intact and in good condition (seemingly undamaged, other tham missing the offering tray, which the museum possesses as well). The full story is now on Dr Hawass' blog, with more photos.
Last night, at the Antiquities and Tourism Police station at Cairo Opera House, an archaeological committee headed by Dr. Youssef Khalifa, Director of the Stolen Antiquities Department of the Ministry, accepted the statue of Akhenaten from Dr. Abdel Rahman. The committee confirmed its authenticity and identified it as the missing sculpture. The piece was intact and undamaged, except that the offering table was missing; this had already been found separately inside the Egyptian Museum. Dr. Tarek El-Awady, Director General of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, said that both pieces of the statue are now in the conservation lab and would be restored before being returned to its permanent case in the Amarna galleries

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, February 17, 2011

With thanks to Geoff Carterm this BBC Radio 7 broadcast might interest.  It is billed as "Professor Aubrey Manning travels to the Valley of the Kings in Egypt to unearth the mystery behind Tomb 55."  I've not had time to listen myself.  As it is on BBC iPlayer I suspect that it is limited to the UK, but I guess you could try.

Update: it is believed that it is accessible anywhere in Europe

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tim Reid has saved me from doing the research into the fight over the mummy mask of Ka-nefer-nefer.

All I will add is that it might expose a problem in US law.  Essentially at present the museum is challenging the US Fedeeral Law on the basis that the statute of limitations applies.  (If I have understood the argument correctly, they are saying that because the mask was removed from Egypt in 1959, too long as passed for a case to be brought for its return.)  Although the museum bought the mask legally, their approach is not exactly helpful in the fight against antuiquities smuggling.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, February 17, 2011

As soon as I started compiling the Egyptological Looting Database 2011, the conflicts within reports became obvious to me.

Blue Shield came to the same conclusion and despatched a cultural team to Egypt.  As chance had it, they landed a day after Mubarak stepped down which eased things, although it was still a difficult mission and I have nothing but praise for their achievements.  Their report and photographs are on the Austrian Blue Shield website.  I have not had time yet to review the photo gallery but will do so later (I am on the mobile still today).

Http://www.blueshield.at/egypt_2011.html

In summary the museum at Memphis has not been looted as previously reported.  As suspected, there was widespread digging at Abusir but it was shallow and is not believed to have disturbed the archaeology.  The news from Dashur and Saqqara is less good and there has been forced entry into  tombs and looting of magazines.  The very good news is that tombs and reliefs show no sign of damage, although today's report from the SCA show that some items stored within tombs were taken.  It wasn't possible to enter every tomb: this was a flying visit and some tombs are bricked up for their protection. As I have said before, over the next few months these will need checking.  Nonetheless that tombs which were inspected were undamaged is highly encouraging.  That includes the unique Pyramid Texts in the Unas Pyramid which very surprisingly wasn't even entered by the looters.

I hope people find the report reassuring.  Above all, I welcome the additional clarity.  A lot of people inside and outside Egypt have worked hard to undertake this inspection in what remains a difficult, albeit slowly improving, environment. My thanks especially to Karl and Joris and also to Blue Shield for releasing the report into the public domain so expeditiously.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, February 17, 2011


As we feared looting from some tombs inu Saqqara confirmed. False doors were stolen from at least two tombs.  I am on a very bouncy trains so proper roundup later, but initial web address below:

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/9/40/5816/Heritage/Ancient-Egypt/More-breakins-at-Egypts-archaeological-sites-repor.aspx

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, February 17, 2011

Maria Carmen Pérez Die. Director of Spanish Archaeological Mission at Ehnasya el Medina ( Heraklepolis Magna) has updated the Looting Database with a report on the Spanish concession:

SCA has reported to me the absence of any damage within the area of the Spanish archaeological concession at Ehnasya el Medina, neither on the monuments and sites (First and Third Intermediate Period cemeteries and Heryshef Temple) nor in the Spanish magazine.
 This is very good news as there were early reports that the site had been looted.  Hopefully as more reports come in from across Egypt they will also be positive.

For information on the site in general, please visit the website for Proyecto de Investigación Heracleópolis Magna.  It looks to be a really good website and I am pleased to have found it.  I will take a good look myself later!  My thanks to Maria Carmen for the update.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, February 17, 2011

There is a very interesting new comment from Dr Mike Jenkins and Ms Patricia Kempa on the Luxor page of the Looting Database.  It reads:

A report from a close friend in Luxor regarding the events of 28 – 31 Jan on the West Bank (some editing done to make English flow):
This is what has happened on the West Bank, as my friend Ahmed [who works as a Guide there] told me:
‘When we heard that some people had attacked the Cairo Museum and some houses we went around in groups [protecting the ancient sites and modern settlements on the West Bank] for three days. There were no policemen at all: they had gone back to the police stations to protect themselves [inside]. Some of the local groups went to look after the villages and the others either stood by the entrances of the Valley of the Kings or Hatshepsut’s temple or Medinat Habu and the Queen’s Valley, and the tombs. Because all of the sites are close beside each other [on the West Bank] Ahmed said it was easy for the locals to guard them.
The people who are living near the sites (most of whom are working in tourism) and the workers at the [tourist] alabaster factories went outside so that nobody could walk or even move in the streets. They made checkpoints and stopped and checked everyone. They even stopped Ahmed three times even though he is a local too.
Ahmed told me it wasn’t like the protection needed at Karnak [with hundreds of people on each side of the site in mobile phone contact with each other]: Karnak temple is a very big site but those on the West Bank are more contained [and easier to protect].
Thank be to Allah everything starts to become more normal now and we feel safe again. And no one will ever touch our history!’

It is another testimony to the actions of the Egyptian people.  But I was also struck by the first sentence, "‘When we heard that some people had attacked the Cairo Museum..."  For me that is a perfect example of why instant news is a good thing and that sharing news of attacks on sone sites helped to protect others, thanks to people like Ahmed. 

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, February 17, 2011

The New York Times reports that the statue was found in the rubbish in Tahrir Square and that Dr Hawass will make a formal announcement today.  All the rubbish from the square is to be searched.

Dr Hawass claims that this is evidence the museum raid was undertaken by ignorant vandals and was not a targeted theft.  The difficulty with that explanation is that initial reports explicitly listed the statue as damaged and not stolen so there are suspicions that the Akhenaten statue was a secondary theft.

Still it is back.

There are separate reports that the recovered Yuya ushabti was found beneath a vitrine inside the museum and not on the ground outside.  I haven't identified the original source but it doesn't seem to be critical information.

According to the NY Times, today's statement from Dr Hawass will address the accusations that he was too slow to report that items were missing and stated nothing had been stolen although it is now clear that such an assertion was not based on facts.  I wish him luck, but his difficulty is that the thefts were not reported until after Mubarak had gone.  Unless he addresses that political dynamic, I suspect any explanation will be viewed with scepticism.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, February 16, 2011

There is a lengthy update from Dr Hawass on his blog http://www.hawass.com/ (Full link later when I am on the laptop.)

The news is not good.  Reports that the goddess section of the statue had been retrieved now seem wrong and chillingly he talks of "fragments" being found. The condition of this masterpiece might be disastrous and irreparable.

Dr Hawass also tries to explain why reports have been contradictory: the museum is still under military control and moving around the museum is difficult; he was misinformed by one member of staff; and he believed most items would be found. As close as we will ever get, he practically apologises for his over-optimism in reports. 

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Breaking news Reported by Jane Akshar who heard on the phone from Mansour Boraik - who was excited, and obviously so.

No other reports or details yet

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I would just like to say thank you to Jennifer Teguia for help removing the many typos and grammatical errors on the highest volume pages of the Looting Database: the front page, the Egyptian Museum and Saqqara.  Between being very pushed for time, constant editing and re-writing, and my less than accurate typing, the Egyptian Museum page was in a lamentable state!  Sorry. 

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, February 16, 2011

One thing that is frustrating me is identifying precisely which objects were stolen.  For instance, which of the two Tutankhamun with Harpoon statues is with the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibition (and safe) and which was in the Egyptian Museum (and therefore smashed and stolen)?

In an email to me, Noel O'Neill has made progress with the head of an Amarna Princess, saying:

All the photos on line are showing the Amarna princess head JE 44870, but that head is with the Tutankhamun exhibition. I have the DVD of the exhibition and two books of exhibition. both books show the same head and museum number, so the head is not in Cairo. This head can not be stolen head. 

If we want people to be on the look out, we need to identify the correct items.  There are a lot of Amarna Princess heads out there and for the stolen head especially it is important that a photo is circulated.  For what it is worth, I am personally extremely disappointed and frustrated that three days after the thefts were announced that the Director of the Museum hasn't published high definition curatorial photographs and catalogue numbers of all the items.  I know they are busy but it is hard to imagine what could be more important than making sure accurate and precise photographs are in circulation and shared freely.  It is not just the head.  Which ushabti was recovered?  The Tutankhamu with Harpoon statue could be in fragments - precisely what pieces does the museum still have so that the art world knows what is missing?  There are rumours that the Goddess from the Goddess Carrying Tutankhamun statue has been recovered, but I haven't been able to follow that up.  Again, the Museum Director should ensure the details are on the SCA Website (or Ministry of Antiquities) and kept up to date at least daily with any updates. (There is a "Stolen Treasures" page, but it doesn't even list the newly missing items.)  Isn't that the job of a museum director?  Isn't his first responsibility to his collection?  It wouldn't matter if the damaged articles didn't go back on display at once; that can wait.  Circulating photographs is urgent.  Enough time was wasted reporting the theft.  Maybe there were reasons for the delay?  I cannot see any good reason now though for the delays in ensuring that photographs of the missing items are circulated.  If their own websites are down for any reason, get photographs and details out to a third party, even by email and somebody will publish them. Or put them on Facebook.

The same applies to the other known stolen items, i.e. the eight missing amulents from the magazine at Dashur.  How is the world supposed to identify those just from the word "amulet".  Again, photographs should have been circulated by now - and surely, at the least, the international community could be told a little more about them?  What Period are they from?  What size are they?  There must be some sort of record?  Surely?

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Tuesday, February 15, 2011

UK Foreign and Commenwealth Office on 15th February 2011

We continue to advise against all but essential travel to Cairo (all four governorates, including Giza), Alexandria, and Suez. However, we no longer advise against all but-essential travel to Luxor

I think a number of us think that the warning against all but essential travel to Luxor was probably an over-reaction in the first place, so it is good that it has now been lifted and the different security situation in Upper Egypt has been recognised.

I think that means that any holidays already booked for Luxor only, or for Nile cruises, will go ahead so tourists should start to return to Luxor soon, but check with tour operators. I guess that two-centres will Cairo will continue to be affected. I am not sure what tour companies will do but I suspect they may try to persuade Cairo + cruise to do Luxor + cruise instead? We shall have to wait and see. I am also not sure what other countries are saying now.

Hopefully though, tourists will return to Luxor soon. Right now the biggest destabilising influence isn't the political situation but lack of tourists and the income they bring. The people of Luxor have also worked hard to protect their monuments during the crisis, and hopefully this will be rewarded by an early return of tourists.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Tuesday, February 15, 2011

This is a video interview with Dr Hawass on Tuesday's CBS news. I tried to embed but the allignment was wrong, so please follow the link.

He says right at the end that the Egyptian Museum will reopen in two days but it seems to be qualified by whether Cairo has quietened down.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, February 14, 2011

One reader recently said that comnents had for a time become more political on News from the Valley of the Kings, and had less of a club feel that readers (including me) like.  I accepted the criticism as valid.  Accordingly - for now at least - I am going to shy away from most of the debates about Zahi's future that are cropping up elsewhere since that is an issue which divides people and is only tangentially about antiquities.  I have also disallowed comments on this brief post.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, February 14, 2011

It is 6 weeks old, but this blog post from Nora Shalaby is still a fairly good photo record of the current state of the "Sphinx Avenue" in Luxor.  It's very sad that when buildings were cleared there was so little of the sphinxes left.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, February 14, 2011

The same Ahram article reports that the items stolen from the De Morgans magazine in Dashur were 8 unspecified amulets.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, February 14, 2011

Yuya's heart scarab has been found on the ground outside the Cairo Museum gift shop. It's condition has not been reported. It was found with one of the missing shabti and part of a New Kingdom coffin (which wasn't on the list of stolen items).

Report from Ahram Online.

TV cameras are invited in to the Egyptian Museum on Wednesday to confirm that Tutankhamun's golden mask has not been stolen. If any TV crew is listening can you please also insist on seeing the Royal Mummy room and the filming in the Late Period rooms (e.g. Tanis jewellery collection).  The reports we are getting are ever more contradictory and seeing things are safe and present is currently almost as important as documenting any losses.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Sunday, February 13, 2011

Andie Byrnes reported late last week of demonstrations by SCA staff calling for an increase in their pay.  Welt Online have carried a more detailed piece investigating SCA finances, titled "Mubarak bekam auch Zinsen von Tutanchamun".

Google translate just doesn't cope with it at all well.  So I would be grateful if anybody could please correct any mistakes I have made in summarising it.  I would also recommend reading it yourself as some points I just cannot make enough sense of to publish here.

In essence, it seems to tell a tale of SCA finances based on an interview given by Dr Wafaa el-Saddik, the former Director of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, at the weekend.  For balance, the SCA has criticised an earlier interview given by Dr el-Saddick relating to the looting of the Cairo Museum, saying, "I would like to make it clear here that the information provided by Dr. El-Saddik is untrue and are not based on credible sources."

Dr el-Saddick claims the Egyptian Museum drew €125,000 ($170,00).  The article doesn't say whether that is daily or monthly, but with with thousands of daily visitors, it seems likely that is the daily income.  She reports that nonetheless museum staff go hungry and cannot afford to take their sick children to the doctors and alleges that much of the income doesn't go to subsidise other SCA sites, but was paid over to "the Mubarak regime".  She also alleges that as Director she had to fight for funds for special projects, even security, and that in the end the cost of fire-resistant paint for the facade was paid for by a German donor.  (Paint which might have saved the Cairo Museum from an even worse fate over the past couple of weeks.)  The article then looks at other SCA fees.  The Egypt State Information Service (i.e. an Egyptian Government site), reported in August 2010:

Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawwas said that the last displaying trip of Tutankhamun hit dlrs 100 million.
Hawwas said that the authority's income has increased to reach one billion Egyptian pounds  [$175m] from the revenues of museums inside and the antiquities' displaying tours abroad.

The Welt Online article says that Thomas Hoving (former Director of the Met) alleged that the income from the 1970s Tutankhamun overseas exhibitions was paid into an account in Greece and that the balance of that account stood at $35m in 2004.  Dr Hawass denied these reports, saying that the money had been used to restore two temples.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Sunday, February 13, 2011

The following unconfirmed report of major looting and digging at Abydos has appeared on the Egyptian Dreams forum:

Looting of antiquities continues unopposed here in Abydos. Everyday I walk across the desert plain to my land beyond and every day I see evidence of illegal digging. The remains of mummies now litter the plain. 3/4 days ago 10 armed raiders entered the American mission house in Abydos and looted it. Police were frightened off by gun fire from the raiders. What the looters made off with is unknown and it is also unknown whether they gain access to the newly built restoration/storage rooms.
Apparently, there are no SCA staff present on site.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, February 12, 2011

As we all feared items were stolen from the Egyptian Museum. Dr Hawass has posted a list at HTTP://www.hawass.com

This includes the torso of the harpooning statuette as we all suspected, although the museum still has the base. That must have been known about for several days.

It is not alone.  A statue of Tutankhamun carried by a goddess is also missing as are items from the Yuya and Thuya collection and from the Amarna collection. I will post more tomorrow.

Also, a store in Dashur was raided last night.

We all suspected that the Mubarak regime was suppressing the truth of looting, so prepare for more bad news over the next few days.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 11, 2011
Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 11, 2011

This documentary is showing on More 4 on Saturday at 10pm.

Over 3000 years ago, Nefertiti, 'The Perfect One', and her husband, Akhenaten, the radical king, tore ancient Egypt apart and then vanished. They threw out the old government and the old capital city and even replaced the old gods.

In less than 20 years they turned Egypt on its head, before disappearing from history. But where did they end up? The debate has raged for decades.

Now a brand new scientific investigation brings state-of-the-art CT scans to the Valley of the Kings on the hunt for this mysterious family of pharaohs: a family most famous for the little boy, believed to be Akhenaten's son, who would grow up to be King Tutankhamun.

Using non-invasive 3D volumetric imagery, the team, led by Dr Zahi Hawass, Egypt's top archaeologist, head to dark and mysterious tombs to investigate mummies that could be Nefertiti and Akhenaten.

Hawass and his team unearth a clear case of murder, the possible identity of a Pharaoh and a link that ties them all together. Have they uncovered the family of King Tut?
Update: Channel now corrected - thanks Dave!

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 11, 2011

This video will interest both those who know nothing about Egypt as it  gives a good introduction, but the objects displayed are interesting to everybody.

It is an interesting interview with Max Bernheimer of Christies. He says that in order to sell something, they expect evidence that it had been exported from Egypt before 1983. That is much, much later than I would have expected.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 11, 2011

I received notice of this event via Facebook:

Dr. Ryan has directed many seasons of archaeological work and conservation studies in the Valley of the Kings. The focus of his work has been several undecorated tombs in the royal cemetery of Egypt's New Kingdom. These long-ignored tombs have proven more than worthy of investigation and yielded many provocative discoveries.
It is on 26th February at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California and admission is free.   

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 11, 2011

Barry Kemp is back in Cairo has put up his first report of the season about the work at Amarna.  The team had managed to do some survey work before they had to pack up.

It will come as no surprise to know that I am writing this first report of the season not from Amarna, but from Cairo. The demonstrations for governmental change that began in Cairo on January 25th have led to a suspension of the fieldwork, but one that I hope will not last for long.
It is worth reading the whole report.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 11, 2011

I haven't watched this as I don't have the bandwidth to do so, but Stephanie has found this video on the DNA analysis of Tutankhamun's family.  It's 50 minutes long - I will watch it next week in the pub on their WiFi.  Here is what Stephanie says:

It is not new but I have just spotted it. Although there are no definitive results shown it is still interesting because Woodward talks about the general conclusions regarding inbreeding and genetic disease and Joyce Filer examines KV55 (and talks much about the teeth).
A massive thank you to Stephanie for this. I am really interested as Scott Woodward did the first DNA study of the royal mummies before the Hawass study.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 11, 2011

With a blog post from the Egyptian Minister of State for Antiquities, Dr Zahi Hawass, and various photographs and videos, a fuller picture is emerging  of the items damaged in the Egyptian Museum.  (I am not going to take them in the same order as Dr Hawass)  If you prefer the Zahi promotional snippet, then here it is from Reuters. You'll need to follow the link for that one.  As previously linked, the BBC also has a small number of photos.

If you are really interested in the subject, I suggest watching all of the videos as they show many items which are safe and untouched.  That is the most important thing, of course.  Fortunately there are too many to document, and I am so thankful that it is that way around.

Recapping the Break In

It is good to start with a recap of the break in, especially as this video from MSNBC has previously unreleased details, for instance showing the skylight by which the thief (thieves?) broke in.



The CNN version of the same, also shows the damage in the gift shop. 

1. The Cartonnage from the Mummy of Thuya

Dr Hawass has said:
The fourth group contains the damaged mummy bands of Thuya. .. Thuya’s mummy bands are gilded cartonnage, and thankfully, only one section was damaged. The upper part of one god was broken off the open work of the bands, but luckily no other damage was sustained.
This short video shows the apparent damage.  It is always a shame when something undamaged for thousands of years is damaged, but it has been and now restoration is the priority.



2. Shabtis - Yuya and Thuya and from the Late Period

Dr Hawass says, "The fifth group of objects includes statues and shabtis belonging to Yuya and Thuya and some dating to the Late Period. All of these objects are currently undergoing restoration." These are items we didn't previously now had been damaged and it is still unclear which shabtis have been damaged, and how badly.  In the Hawass article, there is a photo showing a table spread with a range of articles.  As this is analysed independently by people like Margaret Maitland, then some details might emerge.

3. Middle Kingdom Wooden Models

Dr Hawass says,"The final group includes the pieces belonging to a wooden boat model and pieces from the model troop of Nubian archers, both dating to the Middle Kingdom. These objects will also be able to undergo a full restoration."

Not much more information is available on these objects, although the Hawass article does have a new photograph of the damage to the boat. The MSNBC also has good coverage and a quick introduction by Dr Hawass.  After the National Geographic story which mentioned this boat was pulled, I was concerned that the damage had been much greater than initially shown.

The National Geographic video embedded in the next section, also confirms damage to one of the wooden figures.

4. Various Unspecified Objects

Dr Hawass says of this group. "The first group contains pieces that are all in good condition and do not need any restoration work." That isn't quite the same as saying that they are undamaged ...  There are also some damaged items, "The second group contains objects that need minor restoration work. Some of the pieces in this group include statues of gods and goddess in good condition, and a faience vase with one piece broken off; this vase has already been repaired."

If you want to understand which objects are in which of these two categories, I think that this National Geographic video has the details. You'll need to stop the video and analyse the frame, perhaps in conjunction with the photo of the table of objects in Dr Hawass' blog.



5. Tutankhamun's Walking Sticks

This video from the Wall Street Journal shows at 1:38 that all the pieces of the two walking sticks which were damaged (so far as we know - the fate of the others is unverified) are present.



(Video link corrected: sorry I was editing this when the Mubarak announcement aired)

The video adds little more knowledge about damaged items but again shows further items which were not damaged. For instance, one early report suggested damage to the golden shrines from Tutankhamun tombs and I have been looking in particular for photos of those. This has glancing coverage of the smallest one - I think!

6. Statues of Tutankhamun

This is the bit which worries me.  If you have been through all of the linked and embedded material, you will see the trauma this statue has undergone.  That this has been restored so quickly is concerning of itself.  Dr Hawass has said:
The third group includes the pieces of the broken statue of Tutankhamun standing on a panther. This beautiful statue of gilded wood displays the standing king wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt, holding a flail in his right hand, and a staff in his left. The statue seems to have been used to smash other showcases, and unfortunately the left arm, holding the staff, has been broken off. The panther is broken at the legs, and its tail and right ear have also been broken. Much of the gilding from the statue has also been broken off. I am happy to say, despite the extent of the damage, that this can be restored in a few days time. 
There is also no mention of the other damaged statue, which is also concerning, particularly because it is also absent from all of the videos and photos I have managed to find.

Stolen Items ?

In an ecouraging sign that openness might be supplanting spin, Dr Hawass has also confirmed that he needs a report to ensure that nothing has been stolen; and has commissioned this.  Hopefully this is the new Egypt.  If items have been taken from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo or from other museums, magazines or sites, then altering the international community may help their recovery.  That is what we all want.

Update 17:15

Going back over the list from the Looting Database, while bringing that up to date again, three items are missing from my list above:

  1. The damaged, small, wooden statue of Akhenaten.  This is probably included within one of the above lists, but is sufficiently important to deserve its own mention.
  2. Two Late Period Mummies
  3. One New Kingdom mummy case which was disturbed - it is unclear whether it sustained any damage

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 11, 2011

In a brief statement, the Vice President has just announced the resignation of Hosni Mubarak. Power gas been transferred to the Military High Council. During the day they have said they support the end of the State of Emergency when the protests end, and free and fair elections.

Mubarak has fled Cairo and may be in Sharm el Sheikh with his family.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 11, 2011

I've not seen any of this Zahi series but an episode is on Freeview on Sunday at 8pm on Channel 11. We are getting the Step Pyramid episode.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, February 10, 2011

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12414839

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, February 10, 2011

It sounds as though reports the museum had been attacked were a false alarm. Dr Salima Ikram has just posted on Facebook. The situation remains volatile and news is patchy. I will update again tomorrow.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, February 09, 2011

After his first, less than convincing visit to Saqqara, Jeffrey Bartholet, returned to Saqqara on Tuesday 8th February and was allowed to enter the Tomb of Maya.  He reports on NGM, with a photo from inside the tomb.  This shows a solidier which sort of validates the picture if anybody had doubts.  He reports seeing three chambers with reliefs.

The tomb of the wet nurse is still sealed with bricks. And on Tuesday, inspectors at Saqqara led me into Maya the treasurer’s burial chamber. “Nobody touched the tomb here, “ said Mohammad Mohammad Youssef, chief inspector for South Saqqara, as he and a colleague broke a wire and seal on the metal door leading underground. “We put seals on the lock about a month ago when we checked it for humidity and temperature, and the same seals were still here and the locks were not broken.” Youssef and I walked down a tight, sandy staircase of a dozen steps to an iron gate with another three locks on it, and another seal that was untouched after the looting. Then we entered three chambers, over 3,000 years old, shimmering with golden-yellow reliefs.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, February 09, 2011

UPDATE 22:24 UK: it gets even more confusing.  Some are suggesting that the museum wasn't looted last night, but it is feared that it is in imminent danger of being looted.

I have just updated the Looting Database to report that the Museum in Kharga was looted.

I am having trouble sorting the news in Kharga into a timeline, so I am not sure what news is yesterday, and what is unfolding today.  There are reports that the museum is facing attack and has been abandoned by the police, but I cannot determine whether that refers yesterday's attack or whether it is a new crisis.  See here.

The human situation in Kharga is also desperate.  It is impossible to verify the news but allegedly the police have let criminals out of the prisons (but did not free political prisoners) and the police are using live ammunition against pro-democracy protesters.  Five people are reported dead so far.  All unverified but video is starting to appear as well as Twitter reports.

Sorry not to be more precise, but with no media in Kharga it is very difficult to form a proper picture.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, February 09, 2011

In the first article, Tiffany Jenkins rails against the posting online of rumours of looting in Egypt, suggesting that those who post them are prejudiced against the people of Egypt.  For instance, she says:

The rapid repeating of unverified information without proper scrutiny, across social media and blogs as well as in mainstream news outlets, suggests a broader fear of an unpredictable mass and the idea that museums in this part of the world are unsafe. There is a presumption that Egyptians just don’t quite know how to care for cultural heritage while they concern themselves with making trouble in the name of democracy.
Marianne Luban, meanwhile takes a very different line when talking about the Electronic Egyptologists' Forum (EFF), but her remarks could equally be read more generally  as a complaint that Egyptology is sluggish and hasn't adapted to the latest developments in social media.  And as we are seeing in Egypt, social media is now having huge impact on society as a whole.   (Click on the article heading to read my commentary.)

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, February 07, 2011

News has slowed down a lot: there is little new on the fate of antiquities during the unrest and with the Web swamped, I cannot find many other stories either.  So all I can offer is an interview with the famous Bostonian Egyptologist, Mark Lehner.

Andie Byrnes and I are meeting up tomorrow to do some work on our new magazine, which has been delayed again by our total focus for the past ten days on the situation in Egypt.  I plan on relaxing and drinking rather too much so there will be no news tomorrow after mid-afternoon!

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, February 07, 2011

Jeffrey Bartholet,who undertook the National Geographic inspection of Saqqara, has just interviewed (Sunday) the Director of the Egyptian Museum, Tarek El Awady.

The good news is that Awady says that although 70 items were removed from their cases, and dropped on the floor or worse, the latest assessment is that only 20 - 25 need repair or restoration.  Bartholet reports that Awady had a big grin on his face, so the impression is that this is a genuine and relieved reassessment of the situation.

The bad news is that Awady admits that the Museum doesn't yet know whether anything was stolen:

Awady confirmed that four men were arrested as they tried to escape the museum compound with stolen relics on the night the break-in took place. One was using a piece of clothing--perhaps a shirt--to carry several bronze and wooden statues. Another had dropped his plunder while trying to get over a wall.
Awady said it was still unclear if any looters escaped that night, and it will take more time to fully account for items in the museum to determine if anything is missing.

In his account,as you can see, four men were arrested as they tried to leave the grounds of the Egyptian Museum.  They were carrying plunder.  Awady admits that it is unknown whether any looters escaped: earlier reports had suggested nine or ten men had entered the main halls of the museum.  Awady quite rightly says that it is not yet known whether anything was stolen as an inventory has yet to be completed.  I understand that Dr Hawass toured the broken cases with reporters over the weekend, so hopefully at least the public items on display have all been accounted for by now.  Awady didn't say, but his demeanour as reported by Bartholet suggests he is fairly relaxed.  He did mention the statute of Tutankhamun in a skiff with  harpoon so that statue, which we know from TV coverage was ripped from its base, is presumably still in the possession of the Museum at least.

He also says the captured looters were carrying bronze statues, as well as wooden ones.  That is another piece of information which has not previously been released.  Presumably these bronze statues were Late Period statues since there has been no admission to any cases being broken other than Tutankhamun, one for Akhenaten and ten in the Late Period rooms.

We were reassured on 4th February when Dr Hawass, Minister of State for Antiquities, said on his blog that "As I have already stated, nothing was stolen from the museum."  Based on Awady's report, this now seems to be an expression of hope - and one we all share.  Let's hope indeed that when the Musuem completes its inventory that it is proved to be true.

(My thanks to Margaret Maitland of the Eloquent Peasant for the link.)

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, February 07, 2011

For me this interview with Professor Philippe Collombert, Chair of Egyptology at the University of Geneve in the Tribune de Genève, (thanks Twitter!) taken with other reports, pretty much confirms two things:  

  1. Saqqara was looted.  What damage was done remains disputed, but the size of the invasion was massive and some damage is seemingly inevitable.
  2. The police guarding ancient sites and museums across Egypt abandoned them at about the same time without any warning.  There has been no explanation for an apparently synchronous set of walk outs.
Of the looting Collombert said (with a slight elision for brevity):
C’est alors que j’ai vu une chose inouïe se produire: les pilleurs se sont précipités. Cent, deux cents jeunes gens de 10 à 15 ans, venus des villages de Saqqara et d’Aboussir tout proches, ont déferlé par groupes de dix. Certains étaient armés de pistolets et tiraient en l’air pour faire partir les ghafirs (les gardiens).

(Then I saw something incredible. The looters rushed. One hundred, two hundred young men, 10 - 15 years of age, from the villages of Saqqara and Aboussir, swarmed in groups of ten. Some were armed with pistols and fired into the air to scare away the guards.)

Mais il y a eu des dégâts. Les cadenas des magasins ont été forcés, des momies cassées, une tente contenant des poteries incendiée, des structures en brique brisées…

(But there was damage. The locks of magazines were forced; mummies were broken; a tent containing pottery was set on fire, brick structures were broken ...)
That is my translation (Google Translate makes ham of it), but I think it is accurate.  There is more in the source article - but you may be better reading  the original French if you can!

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, February 07, 2011

Dr Hawass, Minister of State for Antiquities, released a new statement yesterday (6th February).  This refutes the account of the looting of the Memphis Museum given by Dr. El-Saddik, and her claim in De Zeit that the Egyptian Museum break in was in part an inside job.  There is a minor update on the two mummies, with Hawass saying he initially feared for royal mummies from the family of Akhenaten undergoing DNA testing.  [The fact that more mummies are still being tested is an interesting piece of news in itself.]

The biggest update is in relation to the items damaged in the museum.  To the previous list is added:

  • Tutankham's gilded walking stick which was snapped in two;
  • minor and repairable damage to a statue of Akhenaten bearing and offering tray; and
  • a New Kingdom mummy case which was opened but apparently not damaged.
There are some pictures, but not of the walking stick or statue which have been removed for repair.  He was accompanied by a reporter from the Wall St Journal so hopefully we should get some coverage from the Journal over the next day or so.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Sunday, February 06, 2011

Ahramonline reports that all of the artefacts damaged by looters in the Egyptian Museum will be fully restored during the next five days.

Details of the Later Period artefacts which were damaged have still not been released; nor did this area of the museum appear on the TV coverage of the damage.  It is therefore impossible to assess how much conservation and repair might be needed to this group of artefacts; however, it seems surprising that the badly smashed statue of Tutankhamun riding a black panther has been repaired in such a tight timeframe.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Sunday, February 06, 2011

ICOM is the representative body for the world's museums and museum professionals.  Their Disaster Relief Task Force has prepared a preliminary report on the risks to Egypt's museums and sites during the current political crisis, which has been released by ICOM.  It offers a good overall summary, but has limited currency as events continue to unfold and reports come in.  (The last link is the one to follow if you just wish to read the report.)

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, February 05, 2011

Finally today I do not want to hear this nonsense about our image abroad and how much better it would be for our image abroad if he should end his term in office and then leave, because I can tell you first-hand that we have never ever before been so admired and so respected throughout the whole world as we are now because of this peaceful civil and extremely honourable revolution. I have never been more proud to be Egyptian and I have never been encountered with so many words of encouragement and admiration as in these last 10 days, and I've been an Egyptian for a while now, so please take my word for it.
By Mohamed Ghoneim on Facebook and reported by BBC News.  I wanted to report it because it seems to sum up the situation for me.  I think many of us with an interest in Egypt and Egyptology, watching avidly from overseas, have been really impressed by the conduct of the pro-democracy movement in general, and the actions of ordinary Egyptians and SCA staff in protecting monuments, museums and magazines.

I have been following pretty much all reports of damage to sites.  Some people are suggesting that the looting and illegal digging which has occurred proves that antiquities should be removed overseas for their own safety.  I totally disagree.  Personally I think that Egyptians have proved, and perhaps for the first time, that they are truly ready to be custodians of their amazingly rich cultural heritage. I think it would be amazingly disrespectful to those Egyptians who have risked injury to protect site like Karnak Temple and the Egyptian Museum to suggest otherwise.

I have brought the Egyptological Looting Database up to date again.  All  of today's news was encouraging, particularly from Saqqara where the damage may be significantly less than we feared, as I reported earlier.  I do struggle, however, because there are stark differences between various reports and until matters can be verified by independent Egyptologists, some doubts must remain.  At the present time, the largest current worries are still South Saqqara and Abusir.

In separate news, Jane Akshar has reported that the British  Consul in Luxor is going to recommend changing the UK travel advice for Luxor.  It would be good to get tourists back into Luxor and on Nile cruises.  As well as bringing much-needed income to the residents of Upper Egypt who depend on tourist dollars, in the current climate tourists are probably a normalising influence. An early decision is important as it could materially change the level of bookings for the key summer period.

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.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 04, 2011

The British Museum team at Amara in Sudan are having a fantastic season,  Take a look at today's entry in their dig diary in which physical anthropologist, Carina Summerfield-Hill, talks about excavating a chamber tomb. Nice pictures too!

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 04, 2011

What genuinely seems to be a new report from Saqqara has appeared at CulureGrrl.  I have some reservations because the orginal source is not named; however I know that some people are reluctant to appear to contradict Dr Hawass so that might be legitimate.  For those reasons, it adds to our picture of events but it still isn't definitive.


Rather than summarise the report, I suggest you read it for yourself as there is a lot of information in there.  The good news is that the site sounds as though it is now pretty secure - the most serious damage was done on Saturday.

Once again, however, there is a story of on-site SCA staff going above and beyong the call of duty to protect their sites against armed gangs.

PS I should add that separately reports say that Dasour is safe and secure.   Although unverified, this seems likely.  Concern grows for Abusir.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 04, 2011

I wanted to share with you a personal account of the protection of Karnak Temple by ordinary people left on the Looting Database.  The comment has been left on the Luxor page. This is the permalink.

Quite apart from demonstrating the immense courage of the local people, and the debt all those of us who care about Egypt owe to them, it also reaffirms that the tourist police protecting the site were withdrawn en masse and that subsequently one of those police was one of the leader of the attempt to loot or ravage the temple.

The people, at the ecouragement of the Imams in the mosques, also protected Christian churches.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 04, 2011

http://www.algerie360.com/algerie/des-statues-de-%C2%AB-dieux-%C2%BB-egyptiens-recuperees-a-chlef-ramses-ii-a-400-millions-et-akhenaton-a-500-millions-de-centimes/

This second article corroborates the first one, and includes a photo.  It is worth opening that photo up separately in your browser as you will see that there are five statues, not two (and something I cannot identify).  I would guess one of the others is possibly Nefertiti: only the backs of two are visible.  There are traces of blue paint on one of the statues. 

The police knew the gang was smuggling antiquities and set out to catch them in the act.  They clearly succeeded.

The statues are in very good condition.  Either they have come out of a top collection, or they are fakes.  It's hard to tell from the photo, unless somebody recognises them.

My thanks to Elisabeth for finding this article and sharing it with me.

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