Thursday, 8 September 2011

Egypt Looting Suspects Arrested

In Egypt, a committee will examine the antiquities recovered from a house in Minya. On Thursday, security forces arrested ten suspected gang members in Minya and Beni Suef governorates and Gharbiya in the Delta, leading to the discovery of the artefacts in the home of one suspect. The team recovered 27 artifacts in farmer Salem Othman's house, Othman escaped arrest. A Ministry of Interior statement said that several reports had been submitted to Minya prosecution about the activities of these people leading to a criminal investigation team locating the group's meeting place. The relics were seized by the state, the suspects were referred to the prosecution, and the criminal investigation team is now searching for Othman.

Al-Masry Al-Youm, 'Gang suspects arrested, 27 artifacts seized in Egypt', Thursday 08 September 2011.

UPDATE 10th September 2011:
Al Ahram has a slightly different version, there the arrest took place on "Friday night", there were "twelve" of them, the place name is transliterated "Meniya" (and is described as in "Upper Egypt" which I suppose is technically true, if you do not imagine a middle Egypt). The 27 stolen artefacts recovered which "include metal and black granite (sic) ancient Egyptian statues and scarabs" appear to be the same story. Here though the gang was apprehended as they tried to sell them.
"An archaeological committee will inspect the collection in order to check upon its authenticity and identify the ancient Egyptian tombs from which the artefacts had been stolen. The suspects had large sums of money and a car with Libyan plates. They said that they purchased the antiquities from tomb raiders in Meniya".
Nevine El-Aref, 'An Egyptian antiquities' smuggling ring falls into police net', Al Ahram, Saturday 10 Sep 2011

Is this one of the seized artefacts?

This photo appears in Al-ahram as one of the seized objects. The photo however is the same as the one used in Al-Masry Al-Youm which merely says it was photographed by "staff". We have seen this sort of thing before, the Egyptian media merely shove any old random photo of something that looks like a (generic) "antiquity" into a text about an antiquities issue. From previous articles it seems to me that Al Masry Al Youm seems to have a pile of old photos of broken artefacts which it uses for this purpose. I suspect the arm in the photo was not among the items seized.

I am a bit suspicious about the rather careless way these stories seem to be compiled, we've seen this a lot in the Egyptian press in the past few months. Two completely different versions appear in the press, one seems based on the other (use the same photo) but differs fundamentally in the details, one might attribute this to the later one being based on more careful investigative journalism later, except it reports the event took place on Friday night, while the earlier account had already been published on THURSDAY. Mr Othman in one account was "caught red handed" and in the other was not at home when then police raided. Suddenly "Libyan number plates" appear in the story. If we are looking at these variant accounts with a critical eye, we may also note the number "27" artefacts (one of the few elements of the story which is the same in both of them) is the same as the (reported) losses in an earlier storeroom theft in March (the precise details of which missing items, though promised never materialised). I do begin to wonder to what extent we are observing real news, and to what extent myth-making in progress. What actually IS going on over there in Egypt? Are we likely to learn this from the Egyptian media?

Map, edited from here

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