Tuesday, January 15, 2013



EGYPT's Dahshur archaeological site, home of the first ever complete pyramid, is being plundered by vandals and thieves as the country descends into utter chaos amid radical Islamic calls for destruction of all "pagan idols."

Cairo's semi-official Al Ahram newspaper reported that vandalism and tomb-robbing is rife up and down the Nile Valley and listed a series of appalling break-ins and all out looting at archaeological sites.

"Today is the turn of Dahshur," the newspaper reported. "Inhabitants of Ezbet Dahshur invaded the archaeological zone adjacent to the Black Pyramid of King Amenemhat III with bulldozers and guns. They put their hands on the land and start digging a private cemetery on top of artefacts buried in sand. The area was a cemetery for ancient Egyptian nobles; a German excavation mission unearthed several funerary objects there."

Guards at the site confronted the invaders but their attempts to repell them failed due to lack of arms.

Dahshur is a royal necropolis located in the desert on the west bank of the Nile 40 km south of Cairo. It is known chiefly for several pyramids, including the "Bent Pyramid," the "Red Pyramid" and the "Black Pyramid" which are among the oldest, largest and best preserved in Egypt, built from 2613-2589 BC.

Nasser Ramadan, director general of Dahshur archaeological site, told Ahram Online that he and his team reported the incident to the police but they failed to intervene. 

Even the minister of state for antiquities failed to take any steps to stop the encroachment.

Ramadan added that Dahshur has been the target of thugs and vandals repeatedly since last year's January 25 Revolution due to a lack of security, but it was never like this before.

People also dig the sand in search of artefacts, which are sold on the black market, he said.

“Our heritage is in danger and nobody is rescuing it,” Ramadan pointed out, calling on all concerned authorities to move to save and protect Egypt’s ancient heritage.

Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim expressed regret that the Tourism and Antiquities Police has insufficient forces to remove any encroachments on archaeological sites. What complicates the situation is that the invaders are armed.

"We will study a new mechanism to compel people not to encroach upon the archaeological area," he said.

Dahshur is a royal necropolis located in the desert on the west bank of the Nile almost 40 kilometres south of Cairo. It is known for its several pyramids, two of which belong to King Senefru, the founder of the 4th Dynasty and father of King Khufu, along with other pyramids and tombs of the Middle Kingdom, including the Black Pyramid of Amenemhat III and the White Pyramid of Amenemhat II.

Last year Cairo's Egyptian Museum was looted and priceless artefacts were broken or stolen. The extent of the looting is unknown.

When Zawi Hawass attempted to hold a news conference to announce the looting, he was unceremoniously fired from his post as head of antiquities. 

In recent weeks, Egyptian authorities have stepped up security measures to protect the Sphinx and the other great pyramids of Giza after a radical jihadist leader broadcasted on an Egyptian TV station that he hoped to destroy the marvels.

"The idols and statutes that fill Egypt must be destroyed," al-Gohary said. "Moslems are tasked with applying the teachings of Islam and removing these idols, just like we did in Afghanistan when we smashed the Buddha statues."

In 2001, the Taliban, along with al-Gohary's assistance, blew up a number of large Buddha depictions and smashed other art in Afghanistan to erase memories of the country's Buddhist history.

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