Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Sunday, March 27, 2011

Five more items back from the same cabinets as the first 12.  The evidence that the break-in was conducted by two or more groups is mounting.  Good news though.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, March 23, 2011

“Our mission is not to evaluate or inspect Egypt’s museums and archaeological sites in the wake of the revolution,” stressed Christian Manhart, the Chief of the Museums and Cultural Objects section within UNESCO. “We are here mostly to assure the Egyptian authorities of our support in terms of protecting the country’s historical and cultural heritage and also to meet new people in charge and establish contact with them.”
AlmasryAlyoum has a very positive article on the first day of this week's UNESCO / ICOM misision to Egypt, which also gives more details of the team's plans and approach.  It is well worth reading.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Tuesday, March 22, 2011

John Bright asked me to post a picture of this head in relation to the ongoing discussion in comments.  The photo shows the mask that is being variously described as showing Yuya, Ay and even Amenhotep son of Hapu.

The photo was supplied by John's daughter and he believes there are no copyright restrictions which prevent me from posting it.  My thanks to John.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, March 21, 2011

The Egyptian Museum and SCA have issued a revised inventory of missing items, which has removed the 12 recovered items and has improved photographs and inventory details for the items which are still missing.

There are a couple of conclusions which can be drawn from the 12 recovered items:

  1.  Items similar to those recovered are still missing, probably from the same cabinets.
  2. The items recovered are generally the lower value items and do not include any of the Amarna / Tutankhamun / Yuya + Thuya pieces.
 I am coming to the view suggested by Paul Barford that there were at least two separate groups of thieves operating within the museum and that one group used the chaos to loot some premier items.  CCTV footage is going to be vital as Paul states on his blog.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, March 21, 2011

I have just had a message from a lady asking about her great aunt who was Carnarvon's nurse:

My grand aunt was a nurse to Lord Carnarvon and travelled with him she was I believe at the opening of the tomb with him her name was Bridget(Deila) Hurley from Tallow Co. Waterford Ireland. Have you heard of her or would you know where I could find out some more information on her?
Does anybody have any information.  It does seem likely that Carnarvon was accompanied by his nurse but the aristocracy wasn't very good at mentioning servants in their memoirs.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, March 21, 2011

I understand that the international cultural mission, led by UNESCO, will start work in Cairo tomorrow morning (Tuesday) and that the team has three members: Christian Manhart (Chief of museum section of UNESCO); France Desmarais (ICOM general secretariat); and Ossama Abdel Meguid (ICOM EC and CIPEG).  That sounds like a strong team to me.

Ahrahm has been critical of this mission, so I have been doing some digging.   There doesn't seem to be a published agenda for the mission, but I understand that the team's priorities are likely to include the following:

  • to meet the new ministers (antiquities and culture);
  • to visit and take care for the Egyptian Museum;
  • to visit other nearby museums and sites, if there is need / opportunity;
  • to get the official ministry / SCA cooperation for the compilation of a "red list" of stolen antiquities
  • to discuss an action plan and determine needs for the future activities to follow.
That to me seems very sensible. The priority is to meet the new Minister of Culture - and of Antiquities if there is one - to build a relationship.  Some of the most important UNESCO World Heritage Sites are in Egypt, including the Memphite Necropolis which includes Giza, Saqqara, Dashur and Abusir and it's part of the rationale of UNESCO to monitor any threats to World Heritage Sites.  It also make sense to include the status of the Egyptian Museum, with a focus on compiling a detailed "red list" to help retrieve missing items.  Although we are focusing on the latest theft from the museum, Andie Byrnes reminded me ten days ago that bracelets from the important Tanis collection are still missing.  Hopefully, the latest thefts can be a springboard to re-invigorate the campaign for the return of all antiquities stolen from Egypt.  It is good to see ICOM and  CIPEG involved for that reason.  It's also worth remembering how much help the earlier ICOM mission was in bringing clarity to the reporting of site status, to the benefit of all concerned, including to Egypt.

The Ahram article isn't surprising.  There are still people in Egypt who don't want transparency of abuses during the Mubarak era and many of all political persuasions who view any external involvement with suspicion.  Ahram is also not regarded by the Tahrir protestors as an unbiased newspaper even now.  Hopefully, however, a positive mission will establish a strong partnership between the Egyptian regime and international cultural organisations.

(PS This post had more than it's fair share of typos!  Hopefully I have now got most of them!)

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Sunday, March 20, 2011

Reported by Jane Akshar. Sleep well everyone

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, March 19, 2011

I mentioned the news report of the theft in my last post.  Jane Akshar now has pictures of two stolen statues on her blog.   These statues are from a very recent excavation (reportedly Monday this week) and have not yet been properly studied.  Full credit to the German team to having photographs.


There are some suggestions on Facebook that 15 items were stolen.  I've looked at some Arabic sources and Google mistranslates some of them, confusing 15 theives with 15 thefts (i.e. items stolen).  Hopefully, the loss is limited to just the two statues for which pictures have been circulated very quickly. 

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, March 19, 2011

Two statues were stolen from the magazine of the German team excavating at the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III. Three guards were injured in the armed raid.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, March 18, 2011

John Bright has kindly supplied this photo which he has asked me to post because of its possible relevance to ongoing discussions in the comments.

John says:
I took it [the photograph] at Karnak in November 2003. It is a block of calcite that had been unearthed in the north east corner of the First Court where the Bubastite Colonnade meets the Second Pylon. New lighting cables had been laid and this block was awaiting removal to a storage area. Though battered, the cartouches of Akhnaten and the Aten can be seen. The water bottle at the base is 15cms in height so it gives scale to the block which is clearly more substantial than a talatat. At an educated guess, I would say it was part of an offering table as a cornice appears to have been trimmed off. 
Image © John Bright

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, March 17, 2011

Another story to post quickly with little comment.  It's not just 12 objects back, but captured thieves may also tell the full story of the break in when they are tried.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Christine is schedule to be on BBC Radio 4 tomorrow.  The outline programme details and timing are on the BBC web site.  Hopefully it will be on Iplayer too.

Part of Christine's slot will be on the looting at Abydos.  She has kindly sent me the photos she took, so I will upload some of those after the programme has aired

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The SCA has also released an inventory of items stolen from Tel El-Faraein, but I am relying on the Ahram Online report because I cannot find it.  The news from Tel El-Faraein is not too terrible (my bold), although this only covers 25 of the 27 items stolen:

Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, the director of the central administration for antiquities in Alexandria and Lower Egypt told Ahram Online that the inventory at Tel El-Faraein revealed that 27 objects were missing from the storehouse, which houses thousands of objects from excavations carried out in different sites there.

He explained that the missing objects included 20 bronze coins from the Roman and Islamic eras, a limestone relief engraved with a Greco text, a statue inscribed with a hieroglyphic text and four clay pots.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Amy Calvert from Art of Counting has kindly provided this image (© Amy Calvert) of the fan in the Egyptian Museum before it was stolen.  At least we believe this is the fan because it is not identical to the fan in the SCA catalogoe of missing items. I am guessing this is the other side to that photo, but somebody might know for certain.  I've uploaded a hi-res image so click on it to see the image in greater detail.  My thanks to Amy.

Stolen Tutankhamun Fan (JE 62006)

I am considering creating an online database of photographs of the missing items to which people can contribute.  I would be interested what people think about that.  It would tie in with something that Andie and I are planning, so I couldn't launch it for 6 weeks or so in a structured form.  (For instance, we want people to be able to see just the Amarna items which were stolen.)  In the meantime, if anybody has photos they would like to share I am very happy to host them and advertise them here.   I would assume that any image contributed could be picked up if somebody like Penn decide to do a revised red list with better images. I will copy them into our database when it is ready. 

(Amy sent me a picture of one of the other fans as well.  If anybody has fan pictures, I would welcome those too as I am still trying to validate which fans were shown in some of the video footage from inside the museum.)

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, March 16, 2011

This the Zahi + Tutankhamun + DNA show.  I guess everybody has seen it, but it's back on Tuesday 22nd at 8pm on Channel Five if you fancy another dose or just want to grab it to your DVD recorder.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I want to get this out quickly, I have only quickly scannned the document myself, so no commentary.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, March 14, 2011

While the present wave of looting is certainly worrying - and most especially at Abydos - with media restrictions relaxed, more evidence is starting to emerge that looting has been an ongoing problem for several years now.  For instance the Egyptian Chronicle has reported long-term threats to several sites:

These violations have been happening for the past decade and officials haven't done anything about it. When the revolution erupted, the Antiquities Police and the cultural officials working here disappeared, which has only exacerbated the problem. 

There is more news in that article.  Most of it is only single sourced, but it certainly makes grim reading.  Then there are stories like this one about the Mausoleum of Mohamed Cherif Pasha in Cairo:
In the past ten years, various artifacts have been reported missing. In 2004, the illuminated copy of the Quran was replaced by incomplete copies of various folios, and the investigating Awqaf committee informed Sabit that the inventory did not specify that the Quran was handwritten or illuminated. An Awqaf inspector told Sabit that “one Koran was as good as another.” A police report was filed, yet investigators concluded that no wrongdoing had occurred. This encouraged Sabit to create a complete photographic archive of the items in the mausoleum.
In 2008, various items, including the handwritten calligraphic scrolls, were removed from the mausoleum by the Higher Council of Islamic Antiquities, and Sabit still does not know their whereabouts.
Sadly as the article reveals, the Mausoleum was completely stripped of all its remaining furniture and artifacts during the present crisis. 

It is hard because there has been a lot of disinformation out of Egypt over the past six weeks.  It's got to the stage where I am sceptical about almost everything - including obviously even these reports.  Nonetheless a picture is emerging that archaeological sites have been suffering rather more badly over the past decade than the SCA over that time reported to the media, both in terms of illegal digging and the building of houses.  There has indeed been a terrible step up in some areas over the past few weeks;  however, I think that reports which present site damage and looting purely as a new phenomenon have a political edge.  My personal impression is that the damage to sites should be considered as an ongoing problem which has escalated in part because of recent reduced security, but also in part because a culture of site damage has been permitted to persist over the past decade and because the SCA has not been particularly vigilant in maintaining the security of some sites.

Some people have suggested that some of the present looting of stores might be intended to cover up earlier illicit removal of antiquities.  I have seen no evidence to support this accusation, but reading the Mausoleum story for example, it is very easy to see that some individuals in that case might benefit if it is now impossible to show what was removed over the past decade. 

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, March 14, 2011

There remains doubt as to whether Dr Alaa Shaheen has been sworn in as the new Minister for Antiquities and Archaeology or not - governmental statements of confirmation seem a bit lacking.  However, his appointment has now been announced in the Egyptian Gazette (transliterated as Shahin in this case).  Unless I hear this is wrong, I am going to proceed myself on the basis that he has been appointed and that the formal anncouncements will catch up in due course.

In the Gazette article he has reportedly identified a list of a dozen "archaeology sites" which have been raided since 25th Januaty.  Whether this is the Hawass list or a different one, we shall have to wait to see. 

Since January 25, looting has increased all over the country, and the antiquities are in grave danger from criminals trying to take advantage of the current situation, Shahin said, adding that he has prepared a list of dozen archaeology sites that have been raided by thieves since that date.
He says he is trying to persuade the army and police to restore protection - a good first step.  Hopefully they will listen.  He also plans to give 12,000 part time workers full time jobs.  I have no idea what they will do.  The priorities to me seem to be a) security b) better conservation and c) better publication.  

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Sunday, March 13, 2011

It's not very interesting, but such as it is this is his first interview while apparently waiting to take the oath of office.  (Google translation from Arabic.)  I have not seen a formal annoucement, but it is being reported that he has been appointed as the Minister for Antiquities (or what is often translated badly as Minister for Effects).

Warning: his name is transliterated in a variety of ways.  The version in the title is, I think, what he prefers.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Sunday, March 13, 2011

There is an excellent update on the 2010 season from the University of Pisa - it is the Campaign X Report.  I have nothing to add, other than to suggest it is very much worth reading.  Rather than link the report directly, it is probably helpful to link the website front page.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, March 11, 2011

Marrianne Luban reports that more pages of her former website are reappearing and might be of interest:

My impressions of two oft-discussed persons here are Queen Tiye or the EL

and this one I can vouch less for due to it being only a skull--the KV55 individual

I do my portraits by using very thin paper to trace over the dimensions of the actual mummified heads or skulls [although I don't like to do anything from a mere skull] and then using ancient portraits to restore what has shriveled.

I am delighted to pass these on. So much of the news at present is heavy and it is nice to have something lighter to share.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, March 11, 2011

There are reports emerging of illegal digging on the West Bank

In the area of birket habu people tried to digg but were discovered early and dealt with (but without police - whatever that means). There is not specific date reported.

In Kom es-Samak a man was digging illegaly at night and was discovered by the gafirs. Because there was no police anywhere they dealt with him on their own, beating him badly. Our member went there on march 9th to lokk for himself and counted about 10 holes at the souther side of Kom es-Samak. He thinks the man was in search for foundation deposits. I will try to get some pictures from the damage.

The police returned to the coptic monastry at westbank is to guard it. It seems to be ok.
There is no independent verification but the report was made by a regular member of the German forum where this was posred.  Separately, the Luxor Times has reported that two residents of Luxor have been arrested in Hurghada for attempting to sell a statue:

At the check point in the entrance of Hurghada, two persons tried to turn around and run away so the Army officer chased and stopped them before he searched their car where he found a Pharaonic statue of a woman sitting on the throne covered in dust in sack.
I will update these on to the Looting Database before the end of the day - but they are already there in the comments.  My huge thanks for Daniel Jackson for reporting these to the Looting Database.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, March 11, 2011

The looting in Abydos is reportedly getting worse, with a local source saying today on the Egyptian Dreams forum:

Now I am finding plastered and decorated tomb chambers opened and destroyed, (beautiful geometric designs in monochrome as well as multi colour) smashed grave pots and dismembered mummies intermingle with segments of plaster laying scattered and discarded over the sands. I have made inquiries and the southern section of the plain has suffered just as badly as the Northern section.
More on Egyptian Dreams forum

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, March 09, 2011

CNN has been allowed inside the Egyptian Museum which shows some of what is present, and hints and some things which might be missing. Only three of Thuya's canopic jars are present. Whether the fourth was stolen, damaged or is elsewhere is unknown, but it is widely believed that the stopper from one was shown on the floor in the original coverage just after the break in.

There is a transcript of the commentary in the accompanying article.

The Museum is, however, acquiring an unsavoury reputation as again there are reports that protesters were seized today and detained in the Egyptian Museum. Margaret Maitland has a few more details on her blog.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Pharaoh who Conquered the Sea BBC Four, 10pm

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, March 09, 2011

I swear I looked a month ago and didn't spot anything new, so I am grateful to David Krueger for spotting that Dr Otto Schaden has posted the start of a 2011 "dig" diary, dated 22 January, and which I had missed.  Of course there is no digging now: the emphasis is now on recording and conservation.  Perhaps the most interesting part is that some items have been transferred to museums for public display:

Coffins E and G are in Minya, slated for the new Aton/Akhenaten museum there, and they are accompanied by 21 of the large storage jars from the chamber of KV-63.  The small gilt coffin (object G.6) had been sent to the museum at Sharm el Sheikh

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Luc Buergin, the publisher of Mysteries Magazin in Switzerland, sent me this video. Persist - watch it all!  I promise you it's unqiue and I won't spoil the surprise.  (These days one cannot be certain anything is genuine, but the amateur video footage in the second half looks genuine to me.)

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The world still waits for the Egyptian Museum to publish a definitive inventory of what was stolen and to provide firm details of the "eight" items confirmed stolen by Dr Hawass.  The Penn Cultural Heritage Cente has stepped into the breach and produced a working catalogue of the items confirmed missing, significantly extending the excellent early work done by Margaret Maitland.

I cannot find when Penn first published it, but the Lawyers' Committe for Cultural Heritage Protection reproduced it on 1st March, and I have linked to their site.  My apologies guys for being slow with this.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, March 07, 2011

Carter's House near the Vallet of the King is now open as a museum.  I have seen few photos of it, but "Tellibrahimawad" (sorry - I know I ought to find a real name but I haven't managed it!) has just published a photo of Carter's desk if anybody is interested in that sort of thing.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, March 07, 2011

?There have been twists and turns in this story during the day with Antiquities re-absorbed into the Minstry of Culture or maybe the Minstry of Tourism: nobody seemed quite sure which.  Then a group of prominent Egyptian archaeologists lobbied hard and fast and have secured a commitment from the Prime Minister for the Antiquities Service as a separate entity, reporting directly to cabinet.

There is an election planned for Friday to elect a new Head of the SCA (cabinet minister)?  The seven names on the list are reported to be:

  1. Dr Abdel Halim Nur al Din
  2. Dr Ali Radwan
  3. Dr Sabri al Aziz
  4. Dr. Alaa Shahine
  5. Dr. Mamdouh Amr
  6. Dr Mamdouh Amaty 
  7. (?)

(My apologies if I have mis-spelt any names. I am been relying on a list of six names Sarah Parcak posted on Facebook together with an Arabic source.  I have tried to get them as accurate as I am able.)

I have struggled with reporting this story.  Much of it is only being covered in Arabic so I might have misunderstood, and I have yet to ascertain the composition of the electorate. There are also people pushing to have other candidates added to the list.  I know it has been a tough time for antiquities and the damage done to sites is certainly bad news, but in the long term a vibrant and independent Ministry for Antiquities might more than offset the present negatives, especially if the new Head of Antiquities has a strong mandate from his colleagues within SCA.

In the meantime, Dr Hawass reported on his blog yesterday that he continues in office until his successor is appointed.

Although Dr Hawass said that the Egyptian Museum expected to complete its inventory of missing objects on Sunday, no new list has been published.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, March 07, 2011

Rinze has drawn my attention to an article about the orginal looting of the false door from the tomb of Hetepka at Saqqaea which appeared in the 2002 edition of Culture without Context.  It was written by Peter Watson and can be read online.  The tomb was first looted, probably around 1991.  The picture alongside shows the false door in situ before the tomb was trashed.  The article has pictures showing how the tomb looked after that looting.  (The article doesn't credit the photo.  I have reproduced it because it seems to be only photo on the Web of the false door from the tomb of Hetepka.  No copyright infringment intended.)

I have been unable to trace when the false door was returned to Egypt but by Octovber 2005, Dr Hawass is reported saying that the tomb had been largely restored.

Hetepka was a royal hairdresser.  Apparently when the Tokeley-Parry case came to trial, she was described in court as the "Vidal Sisoon" of ancient Egypt.  Many reports say that the tomb was published by G.T. Martin in The Tomb of Hetepka (Oxford 1976) but I think this is the full reference:

MARTIN, GEOFFREY THORNDIKE. The Tomb of Hetepka and Other Reliefs and Inscriptions from the Sacred Animal Necropolis, North Saqqâra, 1964-1973. With chapters by Alan B. Lloyd and J.J. Wilkes and a contribution by R.V. Nicholls. (Egypt Exploration Society: Texts from Excavations. 4th Memoir./ Excavations at North Saqqâra.) xvi, 142, (2)pp., 86 plates (partly folding; 1 color). 5 figs. Sm. folio. Cloth. D.j. London (Egypt Exploration Society), 1979.
All looting is deplorable but if tombs had Saqqara had to be looted then it is better that an already damaged tomb like Hetepka was the victim than a tomb like Maya.  (Since most of the new reports of looting are in Lower Egypt, I have not been reporting them here, but I do try to keep the Looting Database up to date.)

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Sunday, March 06, 2011

We, the undersigned, call on the Egyptian Transitional Authority and Military to immediately restore adequate security measures to the ancient, Islamic, Coptic and Jewish sites, monuments and storehouses, to stop the unprecedented theft and vandalism, and restore adequate protection to the legacy of Egyptian cultural heritage.
While the situation facing the ancient sites of Egypt is upsetting and concerning, I am very sceptical whether online petions achieve anything. Still, it can do no harm and may do some good, even if only raising the profile of the need for action, so I have signed it.  If you wish to sign too, then you can do so here.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, March 05, 2011

There is a new article by Dr Hawass which has appeared on asharq alawsat ( in which he relates his terror on 25th January that the Egyptian Museum might be destroyed by fire if fire sprang from the burning building next door. 

I was horrified at the thought of the world's largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts and exhibits being in danger, although I was still unaware that there was another threat to the Egyptian Museum other than fire, namely the threat of its security being breached! 
There is nothing in the article about current events, but more about how he reacted.  More personal blog than Egyptology.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, March 04, 2011

@aymansimman on Twitter:

Zahi Hawass, minister of state for antiquities, is asked to hold Egypt’s antiquities in the new cabinet of New Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.
No official confirmation or details of source so I wouldn't like to say whether this is an accurate rumour or not.  I cannot yet find another other source reporting this.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, March 04, 2011

Update 5th March

Comments left on the Eloquent Peasant by A.H,. when Margaret Maitland repeated the list below on her blog, suggest it is not correct.  Vincent Brown says that he first received it 3 days ago.  It is difficult because nobody is sure of the chain by which it reached Judith H. Dobrzynski, nor has the original source been revealed.  A.H. felt that Margaret should not have repeated it until it could be verified.  The difficulty is that without definitive sources from the museum, or preferably from an independent source, it is hard to know what is accurate or not.  It is ultimately a judgement call and it seemed better to me to pass it on so that people might form their own judgement, while noting that it hasn't been confirmed and that, in the case of a fan, it seems to disagree with TV pictures.

I have not added this to the Looting Database and will not do so unless there is some sort of verification of the contents.  However, for a blog, I believe it should be shared, with suitable caveats.

Judith H. Dobrzynski, writing in the Clear Arts section on Arts Journal, has published a leaked inventory which purports to be a more complete list of items stolen from the Egyptian Museum.  She describes it like this:
It comes from inside the museum, and passed to me through a chain of reliable sources. I can not confirm it, but given the details, it seems credible enough to post here with those caveats. So, what follow is is word for word from the source, including the spellings:
She then publishes an inventory of supposedly stolen items as follows:

A. Collection of Tutankhamun
  1. Trumpet
  2. The two fans
B. From Yuya and Tuya collection
The collection had 11 Ushaptis, 7 are missing, and 4 are still there. These 11 Ushaptis are registered as one unit. These lie in the Upper Floor Gallery 43, display cabinet # 13

C. Also in the Upper Floor Gallery 43 the display cabinet of the turquoise Hipo, everything disappeared except the turquoise Hipo.

D. Late Period, Upper floor room 12: 17 Ushapti figures are missing

E. Pantheons, Upper Floor, room 14
  1. Two drawers with their figures of Pantheons are missing
  2. Two cabinets one in the middle of the room and one on the side have been violated with many pieces missing.
It is estimated that from this room only hundreds of pieces are missing, as you probably know these are small figures of gods and pantheons.

F. Department of Akhenaten, Ground Floor room 3 and gallery 13
  1. Thot and the scribe (This is a very famous statue, 6.8 cm high)
  2.  Bust of Nefertity (7 cm high)
  3. Bust of Tuya mother of Nefertity.
Dr Hawass has said that the museum's own invetory will be ready on Sunday so it will be interesting to compare the two.   Personally I would have preferred to see the museum's inverntory first.

It is fair to say that no museum is fully secure.  I always tell people you can have as much security as you are willing to pay for, but 100% security is unaffordable.  Under the circumstances, while regrettable I don't think anybody should be held criminally accountable when, say, a remote underground store room is busted by an armed gang.  It can happen.  I feel rather differently about an attack through an unprotected skylight: most villa owners even would have a grille over skylights.  However, in a separate piece of conjecture Paul Barford has cast doubt on the official stories of the break in based on a visit to the museum when it reopened.  Again his report is unproven conjecture, but it makes interesting reading.  Barford alleges that the break in was officially sanctioned (although he is at pains to say there is no evidence that SCA or musuem staff were aware of the plan) as an attempt to produce TV coverage of shocking damage to discredit the protestors, while keeping the actual damage to a minimum.  If that is the case, someone seems to have gone beyond the plan.  Certainly if the list of items stolen is as extensive as Dobrzynski is now suggesting, it seems hard to believe that the stolen items were removed by hauling them up through the skylight as the museum has claimed.  (It actually seems more likely that the thieves escaped through the chaos in the gift shop.)  Of course it is easy for the museum to prove the facts by publishing the CCTV footage from the evening.

I cannot comment too much on the accuracy of the inventory of stolen items suggested by Dobrzynski at this stage because I don't know it's source.  Some points are easy to make however:
  1. Given the scale of reported damage in the Late Period rooms, I was always sceptical that nothing had been stolen from those rooms.
  2. Egyptologists are likely to find it hard to believe that Tutankhamun statues were not immediately spotted as missing when there was a broken base on the floor, and question Hawass' initial assertions that nothing was stolen.  The same applies to the other premier items whose cabinets were smashed: curators tend to know their collections intimately and I think most curators would spot that a star item was missing pretty quickly.  The public, however, has failed to grasp this.  They are likely, however, to react in disbelief if hundreds of items were stolen but no theft was spotted, although in curatorial terms failure to spot the theft of many more minor items might be easier to understand.  If proven, this new list of stolen items is likely to generate a hue and cry within Egypt and internationally.
  3. The former director, Dr Wafaa el-Saddik, reported within days that many "figures of the gods" had been stolen and that the break in was an "inside job".  Her report was rubbished by Dr Hawass.  If she was right about the theft of figures of the gods, then it again raises questions about why Hawass denied the thefts and whether the break in was an "inside job".  We shall have to wait and see which version is proved to be  correct.
  4. It will be easy for the museum to refute any losses which have been fabricated to discredit them or to sow dissension: they can invite in a respected international Egyptologist to verify that the losses are not as described in the Dobrzynski inventory, and to check against books like Hawass' own new guide to the treasures of the Egyptian Museum (which I have on order by the way).
  5. One of the fans reported stolen appeared in initial TV footage of the damage.  This either means that there are errors in the Dobrzynski interview and perhaps some of the items are being restored, or perhaps that it is entirely fabricated. The alternative would be losses after the Al Jazeera cameras were allowed in.  Later losses would fit with the present-then-missing statue of Akhenaten.  Barford also wonders in his piece whether the collection was disturbed between the Al Jazeera filming and the later filming by CNN.
This is a story that won't go away.  Hopefully the Egyptian Prosecutor will announce an independent commission to determine the facts.  Given the importance of the collection is vital that the truth comes out.  That is also important to allow innocent staff within the SCA to clear their names.

We still do not have photographs of the items which the museum has confirmed stolen.  That is critical in stopping the thieves escaping the country and they should have been published immediately.  For me not publishing photos of these items and the false doors reported stolen from Saqqara is far more reprehensible than the lapses of security in the first place.  It might be unpopular, but I also think the excavation license should also be withdrawn from any foreign mission which cannot provide photos of items missing from their storehouses.  As soon as items are removed from the ground, they should be photographed as a precaution against theft, accidental damage or simple environmental degradation.  In the days of cheap, digital cameras there really is no excuse for not photographing all but the most trivial of items.

Finally, Vincent Brown has published an article about Zahi Hawass and the Museum Gift Shop. It is not about the thefts but it makes very interesting reading for anybody trying to build a full picture of how the SCA has been operating.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, March 04, 2011

As with many Hawass stories, even his resignation story is full of contradictions and uncertainty. Yesterday it seemed certain he had resigned. Today CNN report him telling them that he hasn't resigned yet but will do if asked to do so by the new Prime Minister; however if he resigns when asked he is doing so as a protest at the inability to protect sites.

Reading between the lines he sounds to me as though he hopes that people will tell him he is too important to lose but he would prefer someone else was responsible if things go wrong.  Maybe he will be retained in some capacity, but it is hard to see how somebody else could do the job if hagridden by Hawass from the sidelines.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, March 03, 2011

As we saw in Egypt, archaeologists are often the last foreigners to leave a troubled country and an Italian team only left Libya on Saturday:

The team of seven men and four women were from the Italian–Libyan Archaeological Mission in the Acacus and Messak, an expedition to research prehistoric archaeology and rock-art. They took temporary refuge in an oilfield camp in the open desert. Stress levels were high, explains Savino di Lernia, head of the team: "We were hundreds of kilometres from an airport, with the entire country to be crossed to reach it," he says. In a Twin Otter light aircraft, they had to make their way at short notice to Sebha airport in central Libya to rendezvous with the evacuation plane.
As well as the report of this Italian-Libyan mission, the article addresses more general concerns to the antiquities of Libya.  For anybody who doesn't know the location of the main sites, there is a map.  Click on it to get a much bigger version with legible labels.  In addition, there two major museums in Tripoli and dessert rock art along the Egyptian border.  Sites near the capital are most at risk; remote dessert sites are thought to be relatively safe.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, March 03, 2011

Hawass has resigned.  Originally reported by the Arabic Seventh Day, it has also been confirmed in a phone call with Kate Taylor of the New York Times.  The impression is that he has stepped down entirely.

That leaves a vacuum of power which is dangerous and will need to be filled quickly.  News over the next few days might be even more hard to come by than usual.  However, in my opinion his handling of the crisis has left Dr Hawass fatally compromised and he had to go.   

It will be very interesting who is appointed in his place.  If it is a Hawass acolyte, there might be few changes.  However, we could get a new broom who wants to sweep clean and make sure that all the bad news is out right at the start of his tenure so he cannot be blamed for any of it.  It could be an interesting week ...

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, March 03, 2011

The University of Basel had to somewhat curtail their winter season in the Valley of the Kings, but as their preliminary season report reveals, they still achieved a great deal. 

One of the achievements was the re-excavation of tomb KV40 about which almost nothing is known.  Their partial clearance has revealed pottery from the 18th Dynasty.  The shaft has been protected with an iron barrier, but it is good to see the tomb opening.  The article has pictures before they cleared the shaft.

The left of the picture also shows a new feature whose purpose is presently unknown.  It is suspected that it might be a funerary deposit of some sort.   

They also analysed the burial chamber of KV59.  Again almost nothing is known of this tomb and it seems nothing probably every will be as it is bereft of decoration and has been completely robbed.  Only a few New Kingdom potsherds were found but these might even have been washed in as the tomb has been flooded at least three times.  They say the tomb might never have been used for burial.

They also started work within the undecorated tomb KV29 which has also been flooded.

(Photo © University of Basel)

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, March 03, 2011

In a new statement on his blog, Dr Hawass gives a list of sites which have been attacked, looted or vandalised.  Although widely reported as very bad news, actually most of these attacks had already been reported; several incidents are weeks old.  As he gives neither dates nor details, it is very dificult to determine which are new incidents.  For instance, he reports that the Tomb of Impy at Giza was broken in to, but the first reports of break ins ay Giza appeared at the end of January, but an armed raid was also reported a few days ago.  So is the attack in Impy new or old?  I have incorporated the new report into the Looting Database.

Genuinely new in terms of the reports I have seen are attacks on some Islamic sites.  Fortunately these do not seem to be severe and there are no new reports of attacks on monasteries.

One part of Hawass' report is definitely new:
The tomb of Ken-Amun in Tell el-Maskhuta, near Ismailia, was completely destroyed. It is the only known 19th Dynasty tomb in Lower Egypt.
The photo (courtesy SCA) shows a relief from the tomb.  We only have the Hawass report and don't know whether the tomb was vandalised or whether reliefs were removed.  While normally the hacking out of reliefs from tombs is dreadful news, in the context of "complete destruction", we obviously hope it was looted so that something might one day be recovered.  If you would like more information about the tomb, Discovery News covered its recent discovery:
Beautifully decorated, the tomb features scenes from the Book of the Dead, culminating with the famous vignettes from Chapter 125, which depict the critical judgment ceremony.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The team resumed work on 15th January and the season is continuing.  The latest update includes details of their work this winter, including:

The 400-ton torso of the North Colossus of Amenhotep III at the Second Pylon was transported on a ramp 9.5 meters towards its original place and is now lying near and parallel to its pedestal. It lies now on its right flank facing east. A plinth was cemented under its base to facilitate the lifting. The torso will be placed on the pedestal as soon as the plinth dries. This operation is planned for mid-March 2011.
There is a nice photo as well as more details of their work.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The situation for ancient sites in Lower Egypt continues to be of concern with two storage warehouses at Giza looted on Monday. I have consolidated the links for the reports onto the Giza page of the Looting Database.  In the first report (NY Times interview), Dr Hawass says he is unable to keep sites safe and is considering resignation.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Tuesday, March 01, 2011

This is a good travel article by Carl Hoffman who has recently visited Luxor and Aswan.  I have spoken with other travellers who have recently visited Upper Egypt and it is a fantastic time to visit - rather than a scrum inside the tombs of the Valley of the Kings they are peaceful and can be contemplated without being jostled and hurried.


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