Posts Tagged With: Pharaohs

Vanishing Treasures: Tomb Raiders Exploit Chaos in Egypt…..


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Egypt’s cultural heritage is in danger. Grave robbers, sometimes heavily armed, are taking advantage of political chaos to plunder its poorly guarded archaeological sites. Authorities feel powerless to stop them and fear that ancient treasures might be lost forever.

A few hundred meters from the pyramids of Dahshur, the sandy-brown earth is full of holes. Dozens of open shafts lead into the depths, some up to seven meters (23 feet) long. Grave robbers have been at work. Lying belowground here in Dahshur is one of the oldest burial grounds in all of Egypt — tombs, possibly full of treasures from the age of the pharaohs. Archaeologists have partially mapped it but never exhumed its contents, as is the case at many sites in Egypt.

From the pharaohs and Romans to the Greeks, Copts and Fatimids, Egypt bears the traces of many ancient civilizations. Not all of the treasures have been discovered and secured. Egypt has admittedly always had to grapple with the problem of grave-robbing. But since the revolution in 2011, “this phenomenon has increased even more,” laments Abdel-Halim Nur el-Din, a professor of archaeology and the former head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), the authority responsible for ancient relics and archaeological excavations in Egypt. “We are losing our cultural heritage piece by piece,” he adds.

Gangs of Thieves Plunder at Will

In January 2011, the world-famous Egyptian Museum in Cairo was looted. Rioters destroyed priceless treasures. But valuable ancient relics went missing far from the capital, as well, due to a lack of supervision at historical sites. After the uprising, the repressive security apparatus withdrew everywhere, and the guarding of historical sites was neglected.

Two-and-a-half years later, the police are slowly venturing into the streets. But they are mainly concerned with ongoing protests. Elsewhere, some Egyptians are behaving as if the state and its laws have ceased to exist.

The army has placed two armored vehicles at the pyramids in Dahshur to deter grave robbers. But, so far, the thieves are undaunted. “We wanted to catch them,” says a guard in Dahshur who asked to remain anonymous. “But then they opened fire on us with automatic weapons.” He and his fellow guards were only armed with pistols. They jumped for cover, and the grave robbers carried on with their plundering.

The gangs are also getting bolder. At the pyramids of Saqqara, they advanced with weapons and cleared out a state-owned storehouse. According to the SCA department head in charge of the facility, it contained small statues. There have even been illegal excavations in the tourist centers of Aswan and Luxor, which experts attribute to organized gangs. Instead of shovels, some even bring along small excavators.

“Antiquities theft is a very profitable business,” says Professor Nur el-Din. “The government must make it a priority to stop the illegal excavations.” Guarding antiquities sites should be the focus, he adds. For everything else, such as excavation or restoration, there is simply no money anyway.

Stolen Artifacts Irrevocably Lost

Still, the recent thefts are not even the most pressing concern for the SCA. Its offices are suffering from one of the country’s all-too-familiar power shortages. Employees are sitting in the dark, their computers switched off. Temperatures hovering around 43 degrees Celcius (109 Fahrenheit) are not helping matters, either.
Osama Mustafa Elnahas heads the division taksed with recovering stolen artifacts. He is aware that illegal excavations are going on up and down the country. “They have become a daily occurrence since the revolution began,” he says.

The SCA still doesn’t know the actual extent of the lootings. Deborah Lehr, who runs the Paulson Institute, a Chicago-based think tank, has suggested that the US government should support the investigation by providing satellite images of the sites. But such plans have gotten stuck in the pipelines of the Egyptian bureaucracy.

As for the artifacts that have already been stolen, it’s likely they are irrevocably lost. Egyptian experts assume that many of the relics will end up abroad — beyond the reach of Cairo — and sold to collectors at places such as international auction houses.

“If we want to reclaim an artifact, we have to prove that it was registered as stolen in Egypt,” says Elnahas. A proper inventory of the stolen relics is something that the authority is unlikely to get around to, however, given the speed at which the plunderers are currently operating.

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Ancient Egyptian Sundial Discovered at Valley of the Kings


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A sundial discovered outside a tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings may be the world’s oldest ancient Egyptian sundials, say scientists.
Dating to the 19th dynasty, or the 13th century B.C., the sundial was found on the floor of a workman’s hut, in the Valley of the Kings, the burial place of rulers from Egypt’s New Kingdom period (around 1550 B.C. to 1070 B.C.).
“The significance of this piece is that it is roughly one thousand years older than what was generally accepted as time when this type of time measuring device was used,” said researcher Susanne Bickel, of the University of Basel in Switzerland. Past sundial discoveries date to the Greco-Roman period, which lasted from about 332 B.C. to A.D. 395.
The sundial is made of a flattened piece of limestone, called an ostracon, with a black semicircle divided into 12 sections drawn on top. Small dots in the middle of each of the 12 sections, which are about 15 degrees apart, likely served to give more precise times.
A dent in the center of the ostracon likely marks where a metal or wooden bolt was inserted to cast a shadow and reveal the time of day.
“The piece was found with other ostraca (limestone chips) on which small inscriptions, workmen’s sketches, and the illustration of a deity were written or painted in black ink,” Bickel told LiveScience in an email.
Bickel and her colleagues aren’t sure for what purpose the workmen would’ve used the sundial, though they suggest it may have represented the sun god’s journey through the underworld.
“One hypothesis would be to see this measuring device in parallel to the illustrated texts that were inscribed on the walls of the pharaohs’ tombs and where the representation of the night and the journey of the sun god through the netherworld is divided into the individual hours of the night,” Bickel wrote. “The sundial might have been used to visualize the length of the hours.”
The device may have also been used to measure work hours. “I wondered whether it could have served to regulate the workmen’s working time, to set the break at a certain time, for example,” she said. However, Bickel noted, a half-hour wouldn’t mean much to these people.
In the same area, Bickel and her colleagues have made several amazing discoveries, including a tomb with two burials, one from Egypt’s 18th dynasty and the other from the 22nd dynasty, which was brought into the tomb some time after the pillaging of the first burial. A wooden coffin linked to the secondary burial contained the mummy of a chantress of Amun called Nehmes-Bastet. The scientists are not sure who would’ve been buried in the original tomb, though they found remains of a mummy without linen bandages on the floor of the structure. “This badly broken mummy is probably the original first owner of the tomb,” write the researchers

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Egypt…Breaking news….Tomb of ancient princess unearthed near Cairo….


Egypt’s antiquities ministry says that Czech archaeologists have unearthed the 4,500-year-old tomb of a Pharaonic princess south of Cairo.
Ministry official Mohammed El-Bialy told The Associated Press on Saturday that Princess Shert Nebti’s burial site is surrounded by the tombs of four high officials from the Fifth Dynasty dating to around 2,500 BC in the Abu Sir complex near the famed step pyramid of Saqqara. El-Bialy says further excavation is needed before the tomb can be opened to the public.
Antiquities minister Mohammed Ibrahim said in a statement Friday that the antechamber to the tomb of the princess includes four limestone columns and hieroglyphic inscriptions.

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