Friday 4 February 2011

Eyewitness Report About Saqqara Looting

Lee Rosenbaum quotes in extenso an eyewitness account of the damage and looting at Saqqara which seems to contradict the version coming out of Cairo:
On Saturday, the taftish [on-site officer from Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities] asked us to stop the work, because the police were not in the capacity of protecting us anymore. In the afternoon, we could see that the police at the police station at the entrance of the resthouses was gone and had left us alone. That is when it all began: Robbers from Saqqara and Abusir became aware of this and they began to spread in the gebel [mountainous desert].
The account goes on to stress that these were not on the whole 'professional' looters but young men out to see what they could find, though some of those involved were reported to be locals that had previously worked for the archaeologists in their projects. There is no specific mention of the tomb of Maya/Maia which I wrote about on the basis of earlier information. This was Saturday 29th January. The police had disappeared from the streets of Cairo late in the afternoon of the previous day, and this seems to be the day they also disappeared from the archaeological sites on the West Bank at Luxor (17:00 on Friday 28th). Who gave the orders and why? Were the ghaffirs ordered to go too, or would they have fled when they realised there was no police protection? These are questions about this archaeological looting to which it is very difficult to get answers at this stage (and I wonder whether an answer will be forthcoming as the situation in Egypt develops).

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