Saturday, August 31, 2013

Museum looted amidst protests in Egypt

Today the news is focused on the impending US strike against Syria, but for now I want to take a look at developments in Egypt since my last post about that country.

Almost two months ago news broke about protests erupting in Egypt against the leadership.  Now with the removal of Morsi, protests continue to tear apart the country, with the military taking forceful action against demonstrators, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood.

Amidst initial reports of the protests, I, among the rest of the international archaeological community, expressed concerns over the looting and destruction of archaeological sites and antiquity.  Now, unfortunately, we keep hearing news of destruction of sites, churches, and other institutions.  One recently destroyed site is the Mallawi Antiquities Museum.

Looters swarmed through the museum on August 14th, killing the museum's ticket seller.  The looters smashed windows, display cases, burned rooms holding artifacts dating to the 18th Dynasty (c. 1350 BCE), and carrying away over 1000 artifacts.

The Museum's posted images of the destruction and list of missing artifacts online through social media.  I posted some of the pictures below:

 Archaeologists speaking out against looting, often face criticism about turning a blind eye to the the human cost of the demonstrations and violence.  I answer back to these critics that they miss the point.  Destruction of cultural heritage demoralizes the people. Museums and other cultural sites are a part of the community, and as a result the destruction of these sites destroy a part of the community, and people mourn the loss.