Unchecked looting guts Egypt’s heritage, with one ancient site ‘70 percent gone’
2013 06 28

By Betsy Hiel | TRIBLIVE

A wispy-haired mummy’s head, bleached skulls, and arm and leg bones are piled outside looted tombs.

A mummified hand with leathery-skinned fingers pokes from the sand.

Ancient burial wrappings from mummified bodies — torn apart to find priceless jewelry — unravel across the desert like brown ribbon, or tangle near broken bits of wooden coffins still brightly painted after nearly 3,000 years underground.

With bones scattered everywhere, this 500-acre plot looks like the aftermath of a massacre rather than an ancient burial ground.


“You see dogs playing with human bones, children scavenging for pottery,” says Egyptian archaeologist Monica Hanna, stepping cautiously around grisly remains and deep pits dug into tombs by looters.

Salima Ikram, an expert in tombs and mummification who heads the Egyptology unit at American University in Cairo, gasps in horror in her home while examining Tribune-Review photographs of the site.

“These scattered remains … brutally pulled apart in search of one shiny piece of metal,” Ikram says in disgust.

“This is most horrific — someone’s ribs!” she suddenly exclaims. “Oh, God! It’s like the killing fields!”

Thieves, explorers and archaeologists have raided Egypt’s ancient sites for centuries. The Tribune-Review first reported in February that the looting had become a free-for-all after a 2011 revolution toppled one government and introduced continuing turmoil.

The tomb raiding threatens some of Egypt’s — and the world’s — most revered and valuable heritage sites, many of which have never been properly studied or catalogued, experts say. A few experts privately accuse the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of President Mohamed Morsy of ignoring the threat.

Some Islamist religious leaders have contributed to the frenzy by ordering “pagan” antiquities to be destroyed, or issuing directives on the “correct” Islamic way to loot them.

Police and local authorities insist they are overwhelmed by lawlessness and outgunned by criminal gangs with heavy weapons smuggled from Libya.

Meanwhile, the threatened heritage is a low priority for many Egyptians beset by daily electrical outages, fuel shortages, higher food prices, rising street crime and political instability.

For others, that heritage is a chance to cash in. Looted objects are sold in dirt-poor villages near sites such as Abu Sir al Malaq; others go to wealthy collectors, particularly in the United States, Europe, Japan and the Middle East, experts say.

Last week, Egypt’s new antiquities minister pledged to improve security “at all archaeological sites and museums.”

But that appears to be too little too late for the sprawling cemetery complex, or necropolis, in the governorate of Bani Suef. Of three sites examined by the Trib – the others are Dahshour and El-Hibeh – it is the most extensively ravaged.


Looters rip apart ancient mummies — here an arm is discarded — looking for potential amulets or gold jewelry in Abu Sir Al Malaq, according to Dr. Salima Ikram, head of the Egyptology unit at American University of Cairo.

Pieces of history

Abu Sir al Malaq is about 70 miles from Cairo, in the midst of green farm fields, palm and banana groves, all fed by a tributary of the Nile.

Once named in honor of the Pharaonic god Osiris, it is thought to have been a burial ground from 3250 BC until AD 700.

Archaeologists excavated it in the early 20th century, and its artifacts are found in museums around the world, according to Nadia Ashour, who oversees antiquities in Bani Suef. She calls it “one of the most important antiquity areas” in the governate.

It also is one of the most looted.

Hanna, the Egyptian archaeologist, has surveyed the site repeatedly.

“The looting is pandemic, every night and even in the morning,” she says.

Nearby villagers, asked for directions to the site, respond: “Antiquities? Do you want to buy antiquities?”

Ikram, the university Egyptologist, says Trib photos from the site indicate “intact tombs (were) completely robbed, bodies ripped apart. It is a disgrace.”

Some photos show ancient dog bones in front of looted tombs — the remains of animals buried in honor of Anubis, a Pharaonic, jackal-headed god worshipped as a protector of the dead.

“Here’s a piece of a coffin and the person it belongs to,” Ikram says, studying the photos. “For almost 3,000 years, they have been left undisturbed. They were not meant to be left like this, to be eaten by dogs and foxes and jackals … broken apart by greedy people.”

Hanna, picking her way across the site, points out chunks of painted or inscribed limestone tomb walls. Looters often “break off the pieces that have the engraving on it, to sell,” she says.

Some of the discarded linen mummy wrappings are mixed with papyrus, gypsum and mortar, then elaborately painted — “a trait of wealthier mummies,” she explains.

Sighing, she adds: “I think 70 percent of the site is gone.”

‘Cried the whole way home’

Bani Suef’s antiquities director, Ashour, says she is “heartbroken” that “sneak digging” is destroying such sites throughout Egypt.

Although Islam and Christianity forbid grave-robbing, she says, some Egyptians think their ancestors were pagans and, thus, are fair game to be robbed.

[...]

Read the full article at: triblive.com



Tune into Red Ice Radio:

Egypt Roundtable - Hour 1 - Ancient Technologies & Khemitology

Joseph Davidovits - The Construction of the Pyramids & Reconstituted Limestone

Christopher Dunn - The Giza Power Plant & The Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt

Robert Bauval - Post-Revolution Egypt

Robert Temple - Egyptian Dawn & The Osiris Shaft

Robert Bauval - Tutankhamun’s DNA, Zahi Hawass Chasing Mummies & Robert’s Egypt Tour

Carmen Boulter - The Pyramid Code, Band of Peace, The Migration of the Nile & Cosmic Cycles

Joseph P. Farrell - The Giza Death Star





Related Articles
Looters butcher church frescoes in Albania
Egypt’s Antiquities Chief Quits Cabinet, Warns of Looting
Museum mystery: Spinning statue turns heads
Armed Robbers Loot Olympia Museum in greece
The human wall protecting Cairo museum.
Baghdad museum’s slow recovery
Top 10 Plundered Artifacts
Egypt Threatens Removal of Ancient Central Park Obelisk
Obelisk looted by Mussolini to be re-erected after 70 years
Ancient Artifacts: Fake or Authentic?
Theif caught with 863 ancient artifacts from various archaeological sites
Holocaust survivor ordered to return priceless gold artifact to German museum
Study confirms ancient Egyptian ceremonial objects made from meteorite
Boy etches graffiti into Egyptian Temple of Luxor: Sparks Outrage
Egyptians grab ancient land of the pharaohs to bury their dead
Egyptian Mummies as Commodities


Latest News from our Front Page

Kansas City Jewish Community Center shooter: “I was an FBI Informant”
2014 04 24
Kansas City Jewish Community Center shooter: “I was an FBI Informant” …… Which is EXACTLY how we called it when this story broke a few weeks back. We also mentioned that the SPLC, just discarded from the FBI “hate” website… Would be the prime benefactor. Ex-KKK Leader Was Given a New Identity Years Before Shooting Glenn Miller Claims He Was an FBI Informant by ...
Meet AISight – The Artificial Intelligence Software Being Installed on CCTV Networks Globally
2014 04 24
If you thought that CCTV cameras tracking your every move in public was bad enough, you’re going to just love AISight (pronounced “eyesight” of course). The invention of a Houston, Texas based company called BRS Labs (which stands for Behavioral Recognition Systems) is headed by former secret service special agent John Frazzini, and this Orwellian surveillance platform brings artificial intelligence ...
Biofuel Made From Corn Waste Less ‘Green’ Than Gasoline
2014 04 24
Biofuel created from corn waste may not be the clean, eco-friendly oil alternative the United States government is hoping for. A new study has found that fuel generated from harvested corn leftovers creates more greenhouse gases than conventional gasoline — at least in the short term. The fuel under study, called cellulosic ethanol, has been touted in recent years as a ...
Swedes open coffin of 850-year-old king
2014 04 24
Scientists pried open the 850-year-old casket of King Erik the Holy on Wednesday, hoping to find out more about the king, his crown, and his eating habits. "This was a very special occasion, especially considering the importance of Saint Erik religiously in Sweden," Uppsala Cathedral Chaplain Lars Åstrand told The Local. The casket contained the bones of King ...
John Kerry and the Pope set to face off with Jewish Knight Templars on the Temple Mount
2014 04 24
This is the week that supposedly spells the end of the peace process or its end. My money is on a continuation that has no real substance or direction. What’s the alternative? With Passover and Easter over, Secretary Kerry can return to the Middle East crisis. This, after dealing so successfully with crisis in the Ukraine. [Is the author joking? - RIC] With ...
More News »