OUR CALL FOR END TO LOOTING
AT ANTINOOPOLIS IS SHOWING RESULTS
OUR urgent appeal for Egyptian authorities to intercede to stop LOOTING AT ANTINOOPOLIS is beginning to show results, according to archaeologists at the site who say Egyptian news media have responded and are now shaming authorities into action.
Armed guards are to be posted at the archaeological dig site in Upper Egypt. Additional "gaffirs" (watchmen) will be hired. And a proper guard house will be built, according to James B. Heidel, president of the Antinoupolis Foundation which oversees the dig operation adjacent to the Nile village of el Sheikh Abada .
In addition, thanks to this blog and others, the international news media are beginning to take notice of the looting situation. Perhaps even more importantly, newspapers in Egypt are beginning to report on the dire situation.
The photo at the top of this page is an article in the Egyptian newspaper Al Masry al Youm saying its team of investigative reporters arrived at Antinoopolis and found "looting of the ancient city in al Minya governorate in broad daylight. Gangs were digging for antiquities in el Sheikh Abada and only one guard in charge of the security."
The Egyptian newspaper said, "You can see armed people digging, and they disappear suddenly when they see strangers around. And there is only one guard with an old gun. The number of the guards used to be 31, but now there is only one waiting for his retirement next September ... without replacement."
The looters are looking for gold and jewels, and the newspaper said its investigative team got proof of that.
"On the top of the Deir el Hawa site [a monastery at the north end of Antinoupolis] al Masry al Youm reporters saw some people digging in broad daylight, and once they saw us come, they disappeared as if the mountain swallowed them.
"And they left a deep hole after some of the archaeologists found pharaonic gold and colored glass and some papyrus and ancient coins which give them the hope to find something valuable," the newspapter said.
No gold, pharaonic or otherwise, has ever been found by archaeologists at Deir el Hawa.
"The guard shot his gun in the air trying to make them run away until the police can come and see," the paper reported, but added that it is a hopeless task. "Once the guards leave, the people come back again and continue digging."
The newspaper gave a damning report of bureaucratic stonewalling on the looting issue. Its reporters got no cooperation from Nagua Mohammed Ali, the regional head of ancient sites in the nearby city of Mellawi,
"She ordered her employees not to give us any information or to help us in any way," the paper said. "She asked the photographer of Al Masry al Youm to destroy the pictures he had taken of the damage of the site."
Meanwhile, the director of the Antinoopolis archaeological mission, Dr Rosario Pintaudi, has met with the head of the Ministry of State for Antiquities in Egypt, Dr Mohammed Ibrahim, to draw up steps to stop the looting and increase security.
"We are working closely with our Egyptian colleagues to stop the looting, to increase the number of gaffirs (guardians) at the site, to add armed guards at the site from the Ministry of Interior, and to build guard houses around Antinoupolis to house these men," says Heidel.
"It is our hope that very soon the damage and looting will lessen and that Antinoupolis will be better protected from those who try to harm it," Heidel says.
The Emperor Hadrian founded the city of Antinoopolis at a bend in the River Nile in honor of his beloved Antinous, who had died at that spot in late October 130 AD during an Imperial tour of Egypt.
The city thrived for centuries as a center of commerce, culture and religious fervor ... first in honor of Antinous the God, then later as a Christian monastic center of learning and later still as an Islamic religious center.
Antinoopolis remained a place of oracles, magic and religious fervor throughout its long history.