Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Looting at Abu Sir Al Malaq

Blogger Zeinobia ('Save our History : Abu Sir Al Malaq', 27th April 2013) alerts us to another looting scandal in Egypt. There is another huge archaeological disaster occurring at the site of Abu Sir Al Malaq in the lower Nile valley, just below the Fayoum. The site has pre-dynastic remains and tombs from the 17th dynasty up to the Coptic era, and is currently being looted for saleable artefacts. She posts a link to this upsetting video featuring Monica Hana:  

posted by elbadiltv·

As can be seen here, sarcophagi are being smashed up (too big to smuggle out of the country onto the willing market), mummies are torn up and left in the sun.
There is no security what so ever in the site and sadly enough the locals after the revolution come at night and dig [...] In a country like Egypt , in these rural areas the unofficial digging in areas can not happen without being noticed by the officials in the city mainly the police [who are] not trying to [make] any effort to do its duty. The digging was systematic and not amateurish thing in some areas in the site. Egyptologist Monica Hana spoke in this video about what happened to the site. She believes that there are organized gangs involved in the digging and raiding of the tombs.
Abusir al_Malaq (arrow), El-Hibeh is the pink square below
It is notable that the site at El-Hibeh, where something very similar was happening in plain sight is just 50 km to the south. Equally Dashur, the subject of international concern not only because of apparent ongoing looting, but also uncontrolled encroachment of modern buildings into the archaeological conservation zone  lies 64 km to the north. All this looting is going on in a zone that could be patrolled by a single police car in a single day. If there was the will to do it.

So, I expect we will now be hearing from the collectors (who say they have the "rights" to collect and preserve the world archaeological heritage if they want to) that since the brown-skinned people and 'corrupt local authorities' are not going to protect the sites from the looters, then it is theirs by rights. By buying the little bits the looters are searching out by smashing into tombs and smashing up the tomb equipment and desecrating the human remains, they claim they are "protecting them"  (the little looted objects). I would say the fact that people with no scruples and self-serving (pseudo) arguments will willingly buy things like this without even batting an eyelid let alone asking any searching questions is the main reason why these people are digging into these sites, smashing what they cannot sell. If world opinion turns against these unscrupulous collectors and dealers, shames them into changing their ways, the looters lose their customers.  But then, how much shame do these collectors have anyway?  Enough to make them start asking their suppliers for some frank answers to some pretty straightforward questions? Enough shame to clean up this dirty and destructive market?

Have a look on any antiquities site, have a look on some of the internet auction venues. Where are all those little artefacts coming from? Where have all the little artefacts taken from sites like El-Hibeh and Abu Sir Al-Malaq gone? What actually are the reasons for assuming that the one question does not answer the other? Ockham's razor is poised above the "it's from an old collection, but I cannot document that" argument, surely.

Let's STOP this now.

1 comment:

Monica said...

Thanks Paul! really appreciate sharing the sad news.
Monica Hanna

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