Thursday, 24 January 2013

El-Hibeh and the Truth

Holes in El Hibeh in 2005 shown on Google Earth,
compare that with those in Andy Dailey's accusatory article,
blaming them on the Post-Mubarak government of Egypt.

A few months ago I was among those energetically supporting the drive by a group of US scholars (the El-Hibeh excavation team) to get something done about reported ongoing looting at El Hibeh in Lower Egypt. I supported them while I could that is, in other words until they threw me off their Facebook awareness-arousing page for asking other archaeologists a question. It seems that US Egyptologists do not appreciate that. Which is a shame, as I personally think the conservation debate is one that should be out in the open.

Anyhow, something surfaced on another Facebook page, apparently cross posted from the El-Hibeh crowd's hang-out and advertising it. A careful look at this material rather gives a somewhat different view of the whole El-Hibeh affair and why Dr Redmount and her sidekicks don't like questioners. in this new production, one Andy Dailey, Carol Redmount's sidekick has published some photographic "evidence" of the "ongoing looting":
The pictures here are from Google Earth and show you the site in October 2009 and in December 2012. This gives you an idea of the level of destruction being meted out on Hibeh and sites throughout the country which the government has failed to protect. Please share and join us on the Save El Hibeh Egypt facebook page.
 Well, before you do, take a closer look at what these folk are dishing out. I do not know what experience Mr (?) Dailey has in archaeological (or any other) aerial photo interpretation, but whatever it is, it's clearly not enough. But actually that is not the issue, some deliberate deceit is apparently going on here. 

Showing the "December 2012" photos against the October 2009 series on Google Earth might convince some of the more superficially minded that there is a massive increase in looting. Those who look closer see something else. The "2009" photos in fact show the same holes, just lit differently (lesson 1 Mr Dailey, the interpretation of earthwork sites - check the lighting). The 2009 photos are fuzzy and unclear but do arguably show almost exactly the same landscape - so well before the 2011 coup.   

But then lesson two, Mr Dailey, would be "get as many different shots of the same site as you can". So even without straying far, we find that Google Earth has other overlays for El Hibeh. They are:
2nd Dec 2012 (the ones shown), 22nd March 2011 (not shown by Mr Dailey), the muddy ones taken 6th October 2009 (shown by Mr Dailey as "evidence"  - superficially they look smooth), very grainey ones of 7th Feb 2007 (not shown by Mr Dailey), 12th October 2005 (unfortunately not shown by Mr Dailey - a real omission, that), and 20th January 2005 (unfortunately not shown by Mr Dailey - a real omission, that). 
The reason why the omission by the El Hibeh campaigners of the two series of 2005 satellite photos is significant is (a) they are lit in a manner similar to the 2012 ones being the subject of discussion and - and more importantly - (b) they show more or less the same holes. While any holes at all in an ancient site (and I remain to be convinced that the ones shown in the photos are all looter's holes) are a shame, maybe even a tragedy, it seems to me the greater casualty here is the Truth. The holes Andy Dailey is apparently trying to pin on the current government were - the satellite photo evidence shows unequivocally - for the most part already there at the beginning of 2005.  So, how much of the other recent damage Carol Redmount and her fellows have been claiming at El Hibeh is in fact a similar misinterpretation, or misrepresentation of the evidence? 

One can only surmise what their motives are for such a bare-faced manipulation of the facts, but I think it might give a clue as to why they would be engaging in censorship of their Facebook propaganda page. 

This is the sort of exagerration and rabble-rousing that gets preservationists a bad name, and I for one, think this is reprehensible and irresponsible.

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