Today’s Egypt and the Search for Cleopatra’s Tomb

Just came across this timely piece from Dominican Today:

Dominican Republic’s own Egyptologist affirmed Friday that the turmoil in Egypt prevented setting up protection for the museum of antiquities for which bands of looters managed to cart off important pieces.

Kathleen Martinez said the groups of looters which had formed amid the chaos even sacked the pyramids and that the upheaval in Egypt will also lead to the suspension of a global effort to return to that country its antiquities pilfered throughout the centuries.

She said groups of volunteer youngsters formed to help Zahi Hawass, director of the Supreme Council of the Antiques, defend the museum against the raiders at the start of the antigovernment protests, and revealed that the Antiquities Director already had plans to transfer it to a safer place. “There are pieces that have been lost probably forever.”

Interviewed by Huchi Lora and Patricia Solano on Telesistema, the researcher regretted the impact that the revolt will have on Egypt’s cultural legacy. “Now those pieces will start touring the world and very few people will know whether they are legal or pillaged.”

Martinez said the chaos has also forced the suspension of the entire excavation season, as her search for Cleopatra’s tomb won’t resume for now. “I will not resume the excavation until the safety of the personnel and of the pieces can be guaranteed.

She lauded Hawaas’ efforts to get the international community’s cooperation on the return of the stolen objects. “After a long judicial process, just as he was about to accomplish the return of the pieces, this happens.”

Asked about Egypt’s ability to protect its legacy, Martinez said that the presence of “radical” groups in that nation may hinder it. “I was excavating a site and a group of men approached me in an aggressive manner, and then the workers ran off and I was left all alone with them”

She said she handled the situation unscathed by managing to convince the group that she was working for the Government of their country.

Major finds

The archaeologist added that despite the uncertainty to resume her quest to find Cleopatra, her work has already yielded important finds, including a pharoah’s tomb

“I know inside that I’m close to finding Cleopatra’s tomb,” the attorney-turned archaelogist said at an excavation site in November, 2009, when her team found a large statue dated 300 BC, which represents the pharaoh Ptolemy IV.

… on Sunday I’ll post excerpts from my Explorator newsletter with more links about the situation in Egypt (from an archaeological perspective); the above item is the only one so far which seems to touch upon the period of our purview …

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