Saturday, 2 June 2012

Looting Near Giza?

Lorenzo Cremonesi ('Tombaroli in azione a Giza', Corriere dela Serra 30th May 2012) writes of serious and systematic looting of tombs in the desert around the pyramids of Giza. He says that not only are the police doing nothing, but the site guards may be involved, as "in the case of many other known and lesser known sites throughout Egypt". The activity is of course encouraged by the high prices ancient Egyptian artefacts reach on the black market. There are no statistics of this large-scale robbery reminiscent of the traffic in archaeological artefacts that swept Iraq after the 2003 war and the fall of Saddam Hussein. 
The inaction of the state associated with the fall of the regime of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 is very noticeable when you enter the desert around Cairo. As seen in the video, you need only travel a few hundred meters from the last houses and it is not difficult to meet the visible results of the activities of grave robbers. There are holes and excavations of every kind. Some are very superficial trial trenches, while others are real deep tunnels tens of meters. The dark color of the loose soil, the remains of food around, even abandoned buckets and picks on the sand, testify that the excavation activities still continue, almost always at night, or in the early morning hours. [...] It is not difficult to discover that the thieves worked by exploiting the sites abandoned by foreign archaeological missions working in the area at the outbreak of riots and not yet returned.

On a Facebook page, Francesco Tiradritti claims that this story is not quite what it seems:
It is rubbish [...]. The tombs showed in the video are pits opened years and years ago with sand and rubbish inside.  
But then what are we to make of the mentions of remains of food and buckets and picks left on the sand around the holes and targetting sites not long ago under investigation? Tiraditti makes another allegation about the journalist to discredit him, but I am unable to confirm this. 

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