Massive looting of archaeological sites in Egypt continues as security
forces turn a blind eye to thugs plundering Egypt's cultural heritage.
After Egypt's revolution, priceless artifacts were stolen from the
nation'sworld-famous Egyptian Museum in Cairo as well as from
innumerable storehouses scattered throughout the country.
Today the continued plundering of archaeological sites, which comprise
Egypt's cultural heritage in its most pristine state, presents an even
more critical challenge as sites are often remote and protected by
low-paid guards and state security seems unable or unwilling to halt
El Hibeh is one such site. On the east bank of the Nile in a particularly
impoverished area of Egypt three hour's drive south of Cairo, the
archaeological site occupies about two square kilometers and includes
cemeteries and the ruins of a walled ancient provincial town with a
limestone temple, industrial facilities, houses and possible fort and
governing residence. The remains date from the late Pharaonic,
Graeco-Roman, Coptic and early Islamic periods (approximately
11th century BCE to eighth century CE). Hibeh is of special
importance because it is one of very few relatively intact town sites
remaining in Egypt and because of its extensive archaeological
deposits dating to the Third Intermediate Period, Egypt's last
"Dark Age" and an era particularly poorly known archaeologically.
Eminent University of California, Berkeley archaeologist Dr. Carol
Redmount arrived in Egypt in February to continue her archaeological
work at the site after obtaining the proper permits from Egypt's Supreme
Council of Antiquities which controls all excavations in the country.
Twenty-four hours before departing for the site her permits were
revoked by the provincial police service with no explanation. Inquiries
revealed that a mafia-like gang led by an escaped convicted crminal
have been ruthlessly looting the site since at least June 2011. The
Supreme Council of Antiquities has been unable to stop the pillaging
despite repeated appeals to local police services. Open, systematic
looting continues on a daily basis as of the writing of this press release.
Dr. Redmount has not been allowed to visit the site nor do any work.
"Hibeh is vitally important to understanding the character of ancient Egypt
in the Third Intermediate Period, a very confusing and confused historical
era for which only limited archaeological resources exist. Archaeology is
controlled destruction, but looting is obliteration. It destorys an
irreplaceable, nonrenewable cultural resource that belongs to humanity,"
says Dr. Redmount.
Redmount's team of six researchers from UC Berkeley is currently unable
to do any of its proposed academic program at Hibeh for which they had
received permission from the Egyptian authorities. This is costing the team
tens of thousands of dollars in lost grants.
"Our primary concern of course is the incalculable loss of precious
archaeological evidence. Archaeologists dream of excavating undisturbed
or even relatively undisturbed historic sites. We are losing Hibeh for
posterity as we speak," adds Dr. Redmount.
Independent verification of the scale of the looting has been provided by
visitors to the site who sent photos to Dr. Redmount, including pictures
of looting in progress.
Photographic evidence of the looting is available.
More pictures and details can be found at the Save El Hibeh Egypt Facebook
page and at http://neareastern.berkeley.edu/hibeh/index.htm.