Friday, 22 June 2012

Photograph of the Damaged Merenptah Stela

The initial accounts did not make the damage sound too bad, but this is appalling (from Kate Phizackerly's "News from the Valley of the Kings" (sic):
Photograph of the Damaged Merenptah Stela
Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, June 22, 2012
Many of us fear that reports out of Egypt might be downplaying damage to sites. That certainly seems to be the case with the Merenptah Stela at Gebel Silsileh. There's a photo of the damage on Egyptological. This is certainly an important photo so please bring it to the attention of your contacts. Reminder: please do not repost the photo without permission.
OK. The saw cuts around the edges of the stela seen in those photos were there before the recent damage (anyone like to tell me who was responsible?). What clearly has happened here is that a botched attempt was made to remove just the inscription at the bottom by hacking an alcove out above it (destroying the lower third of the figures of king and god, perhaps as Muslims they were not so bothered about destroying the image but saw an opportunity to make money by detaching some 'writings'). Presumably after making a deeper alcove they were intending to detach the outcropping block of stone beneath it by a blow from the top. And to think very probably somebody WOULD in the end have bought this - no questions asked - if they'd succeeded in getting it out. But actually looking at what they were doing and had gone about it, I doubt very much if they'd have got anything saleable at all from this wild hacking. Silsileh sandstone is variable in quality, from the "Egyptological" photos this does not look like the most coherent of the beds.

The stela and the damage around its edge are seen in the centre of this Wikipedia photo. The stela is (I would guess) about 1.3 x 0.5 m and its surviving lower edge is about head-height.  

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