April 19, 2011

Why Cairo’s antiquities must be protected

Posted at 12:52 pm in Similar cases

Some more of the many articles calling for the protection of Cairo’s artefacts – a position that of course contradicts the fact that many of the museums of the west acquired large amounts of their collections amid similar scenes of chaos & lawlessness as the ones currently being seen in Egypt – & the fact that they were willing purchasers only added an incentive to would be looters.


Tomb raiders: why does no one care about Cairo’s Egyptian Museum?

Judging by reports from Cairo, the west does not understand that one of the greatest antiquity collections on Earth is in danger

If petrol bombs were being thrown in St Marks Square in Venice, or outside the British Museum, what would reports say? We would never stop hearing about the threat to humanity’s cultural heritage. Yet, as I scan the news sites for the latest reports from Cairo, it is strange how little stress has been placed on the unique importance and fragility of the contents of the Egyptian Museum, which stands at the very heart of the unfolding tragedy. That is why I must reiterate my previous attempt to draw attention to this silent witness and victim of events.

No, works of art are not people. The violence to protesters who had been so peaceful is nightmarish. But a nightmare scenario is also unfolding for the antiquities of Egypt. As I already stressed earlier this week, the collection of the Egyptian Museum is one of the greatest on Earth. This is where the golden mask of Tutenkamun is kept; the mummies of the pharaohs, and so much more.

The image that has haunted me all week is of a very ancient and very spooky tomb statue in the museum: it keeps coming to mind because I have seen nothing like it anywhere else – and because it is made of wood. Old, dry wood. All these treasures could vanish in smoke so easily.

My initial assumption was that the western media were downplaying the museum because it seemed less important than the lives at stake and the future to be won. It was even being said that to draw attention to looting was to do the propaganda work of the regime. But now I am starting to wonder if people in the west even know or care what is in that building. It is a great museum. And it is in peril.

Press TV

Museums rally to protect Egyptian sites
Thu Feb 3, 2011 2:31PM

International archeologists have volunteered to go to Egypt to help protect the country’s cultural heritage amid violent anti-government protests.

Museums all around the world are now on high alert after looters attacked some ancient sites and museums while the African country has been rocked by unprecedented demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-rule.

Millions of protesters across Egypt have defied army orders to return to their homes as rallies against President Hosni Mubarak and his governments continue for the ninth day.

Inspired by the recent popular revolution in Tunisia, which resulted in the historic overthrow of Zine El Abidin Ben Ali, Egyptians have staged similar anti-government protests since January 24, 2011, calling on Mubarak to step down from power after three decades in office.

Two Pharaonic mummies were destroyed during the protests last week when protesters set the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) on fire.

There have been some other damages and lootings in other sites but the military and locals are now protecting their cultural heritage.

Many Egyptologists are now worried that history repeats itself and remnants of the great Egyptian civilization end up like thousands of millennia-old artifacts which were stolen or smashed in the chaos following the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

“The situation during the fall of Baghdad is the worst case scenario, but we think that’s not going to happen because there is such a movement to protect the antiquities,” Reuters quoted Karen Exell, chairwoman of Britain’s Egypt Exploration Society and curator of the Egypt collection at the Manchester Museum as saying.

Experts and archeologists are pleased by the vigilance and support of ordinary Egyptians.

Hundreds of people formed a chain around the Egyptian Museum of Cairo to protect it after looters broke into the museum and destroyed the two Pharaonic mummies.

Western museums are still urging vigilance.

“All of us who are friends of Egypt can help the efforts to stop looting of archaeological sites, stores and museums, by focusing on the international antiquities trade,” London’s Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology said in a statement.

Exell also announced that an international alert had been posted on a global Egyptologist electronic bulletin board by a team of Spanish archaeologists, offering to help catalog artifacts.

The British Museum which houses one of the greatest Egyptian antiquities collections, including the famous Rosetta Stone, has also urged more protection of the African country’s heritage.

“It is a matter of the greatest concern that these irreplaceable objects should be fully protected to ensure their safety and survival for future generations,” the museum said.

Egypt appointed the Secretary General of its Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr. Zahi Hawass, as the country’s Minister of Antiquities.

The world-renowned archeologist was announced as the head of the newly created department on January 31st, 2011.

The department will absorb the Supreme Council of Antiquities and will be responsible for protecting and preserving all Egyptian monuments and museums.


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