Tuesday 26 April 2011

Museum Looting: "An Extraordinary Event"

Cairo-based egyptologist and Glyphdoctor Nicole Hansen criticises those like me for attempting to untangle the convoluted story (stories) about the damage done in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo in January this year and the farcical events following. She admonishes:
everyone needs to realize there are bigger issues involved here and if you keep looking at the broken window and what shabti was returned you will never get your questions answered. Of course what happened at the museum doesn't entirely make sense but you need to take a wider view to even begin to contemplate it and understand it.
I rather think that some of us that have been following these stories (about 'looting that is not looting and then is' and 'the great red mercury hunt' and the 'mysterious wandering mummy heads') and are worried about the damage to and loss of antiquities from this collection have been trying to see it in the wider context of the events of the previous few days and subsequent events. But Ms Hanson should go and check that window, which was still not broken when I stood under it on 18th march. Maybe it is now?

Dr Hansen apparently considers that the recovery of items from Cairo Museum theft has been "commented on to death. I wish people would move on to the real issues". To illustrate what the latter might be she suggests:
The looting at the museum may very likely have been a political act carried out by any one of a number of parties (Egyptian and foreign) and therefore an extraordinary event that is not likely to be repeated. And the consequent international hoopla about it may also have a political purpose.
She then admonishes that anyone who thinks "this is all about antiquities then you are being very naive". Well, it is nice we can at least agree on that. Certainly, as I have said previously, I do not think that the intruders in the museum on that night were primarily there to loot the antiquities, I think that was a secondary act.

Dr Hansen failed to enlarge on which "foreign parties" she thinks may have been involved in the looting, whether Egypt's neighbours (Syrians, Jordanians, Jews) or further afield (USA). While I am sure we can agree that this was an "extraordinary event" (not to say, almost unprecedented) I really do not see that - until we know precisely what happened - anyone can be certain that this scenario is unlikely to be repeated, here or elsewhere.

There seems to be the germ of a conspiracy theory in the suggestion that the "international hoopla" (sic) "may also have a political purpose". I admit I do not follow her argument, sounds like she's been talking to Peter Tompa or Egyptian nationalists. Certainly I have no political axe to grind, I just want to know what happened and why and what measures are being taken to secure the sites and antiquities of Egypt against this sort of damage. Is that such a bad thing for anyone to want, no matter where they live?

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