Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Guardian of the Pharoahs Tells a New Story

There is an interview with Zahi Hawass in the August number of Scientific American, it's quite notable for the way he dodged answering most of the questions. Most of it is fairly predictable, except this:
You said 31 objects from the Cairo museum are still missing at this point. What are the most significant ones?
[ZH] The only significant one from the museum is a small head of Queen Nefertiti—a few centimeters high. [...] We brought back the statue of Akhenaton holding a stela. And we’ve brought back most of King Tut’s objects that were stolen.
And where were they? Where did you find them?
[ZH] Those were taken by the looters who entered the museum on the night of January 28. We got the objects of King Tut because there was someone working for the antiquities department who came to me and said that there were looters who wanted to return these objects to me. And the next day he brought a bag with four objects.
And these looters approached the department official anonymously
[ZH]It's a long story. He was sitting in a café, and heard them talking, and they said they need to return these objects to Zahi Hawass because they trust him.

Now of course that is not the story that was put out at the time, or rather not either of the stories that was put out at the time. So now we have at least three different versions of the same event, found in a bag by named person (chance), handed in by unnamed person (delberate act), conversation overheard in a cafe by named person (chance). And these men "trust" Hawass?

Also, what does it mean "Those were taken by the looters who entered the museum on the night of January 28"? Were there any other raids on different days we did not hear anything about? So this Ministry employee (here unnamed - but the finder was named as Salah Abdel Salam earlier) has had contacts with the 28 Jan looters? Why were they not arrested? Did the handover take place in the Shubra metro station, or in a cafe?

[By the way Dr Hawass is not quite presenting the facts saying: "most of the items looted on 28th January were returned". The number of items still missing is still greater than half of those taken. Perhaps he has in mind the total number of items taken out of their cases that night, the majority of which were left in the museum on the floor or thrust into other cases.]

Jeffrey Bartholet, 'Zahi Hawass, Egypt's Indiana Jones and One-Time Mubarak Ally, Tries to Cozy Up to Pro-Democracy Activists', Scientific American July 13, 2011


Geoff Carter said...

I thought they were found by an employee in a bag he found on the seat next him on the metro; a tangled web indeed.

Paul Barford said...

That was the first story, and the man was named. This story was confirmed in an interview (CNN I think - it's posted on my blog) by Tarek El-Awady the Director of the Cairo Egyptian Museum.

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