Saturday 17 April 2010

Artefact Looting in Fayoum, Egypt

Archaeological sites containing tombs of the Pharaonic era in Tameyah Desert in Fayoum are being raided, by artefact looters. This was investigated by by Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper (Ali Zalat, Samah Abdel Aaty, 'Al-Masry Al-Youm digs up Fayoum tomb raiders', Al-Masry Al-Youm Mon, 12/04/2010). At the time of the investigation the paper notes that the People's Assembly has been discussing a bill, "presented by steel tycoon and NDP leader Ahmed Ezz, to amend the law on trade in artefacts. The proposed amendment would allow Egyptians to register artefacts and trade them within the country".
The investigation found that residents in the area have encroached on historical tombs that contain stone statues, gold necklaces, a royal chair made from pure gold, kohl containers, stone pots and coffins. The residents have been using primitive tools to search for antiquities. Al-Masry Al-Youm also obtained photos of artifacts hidden in homes and yards before being put up for sale. Al-Masry Al-Youm also penetrated an artifact trading ring based in Qena and Sohag. Members of the ring expressed readiness to smuggle one Pharaonic statue--valued at US$11 million--outside the country with the help of a foreign embassy in Cairo.
The embassy is not named. I suspect however that it is not villagers from a desert oasis that have established contacts with this 'foreign embassy', this looks more like the work of an organized criminal group.

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