Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Egypt Looting: Tomb of Maya Stripped?

From the Egyptologists for Egypt. Supporting the people's demands facebook page:
From our Senior Guide. A Sakkara inspector told him that in the last few days Sakkara has been ransacked. Maia is destroyed and even the reliefs in the burial chamber have been hacked out. There is mass digging around the Unas area in particular. The inspector could not get as far as the Teti area as he was threatened with guns but the mastabas will have suffered the same fate. A black day (via P.Allingham).
This seems to refer to the tomb of Maya. He was an important official in the period after the Amarna heresy, among his titles was 'treasurer'. He was probably responsible for Tutankhamun's burial (he left his name on a number of objects in the latter’s tomb).

Maya's tomb was visited by Richard Lepsius in 1843, then was forgotten. In the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities) in Leiden there is a superb life-size statue of Maya accompanied by his wife Merit which had probably come from this tomb. The structure was among those rediscovered by an Anglo-Dutch archaeological team in 1986, and the interior decoration conserved after the excavation.

Vignette: Maya and Merit, now without a home (Leiden, after Wikisources), photo of interior of tomb before destruction. Some saleable limestone panelling here that may soon be appearing on an antiquities market near you.

UPDATE: There are suggestions that the report of damage actually refers to the tomb of Maia, wetnurse to Tutankhamun, excavated by the French directed by Alain Zivie away from this group of tombs but still in the Saqqara necropolis (and also with reliefs). I took this to be the Maya because I saw reports coming in from the Dutch teams, but there may be some confusion - apologies if I have unwittingly contributed. No doubt with internet access restored, we may find out more about this in the next few days.

UPDATE 9/2/11. It turns out that both the tombs of Maia and Maya at Saqqara are undamaged, just one of the many pieces of temporarily unverifiable misinformation that were flying around in the wake of the political developments. That's a relief.

Perhaps as the initial concern-fuelled hysteria gives way to a more rational assessment, we might consider what lay behind the misinformation (and I suspect there are grounds for assessing at least part of it as misinformation, rather than mistaken information), and who and what purposes it served.

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