Experts heartbroken by raiding in Egyptian area near Nile
By Betsy Hiel
Published: Sunday, June 16, 2013, 10:50 p.m.
EL-HIBEH, Egypt — From 1070 B.C. until A.D. 600, this was a provincial town and cemetery. Today, from its ancient mud-brick walls, you can watch farmers tend wheat fields along the Nile.
Within those walls, you can see how looters dig deep holes, searching for invaluable artifacts.
A broken limestone sarcophagus is near one pit; mummy fragments and broken pottery are jumbled with old bricks.
“We don't have much in the way of towns that date to that period that were reasonably preserved,” said Carole Redmount, an associate professor of archaeology at the University of California at Berkeley.
The destructive thievery “breaks my heart,” said Redmount, who has excavated here for nine of the past 13 years.
She sounded an alarm about looting in 2012: “It was just obscene, the way all the body parts were littered all over the place.” Her team reburied some of them.
Salima Ikram, who heads the Egyptology unit at American University in Cairo, examined Tribune-Review photographs of the site.
“This is really horrible because not only have they ripped the bodies apart, but if there was any part of the structure left, they have wrecked that, too,” she said.
Much of the damage appeared to be recent, Ikram said.
Egyptian archaeologist Heidi Saleh, who worked on an excavation here in 2004, said the site is historically significant because ancient Libyans once ruled here and brought “a lot of experimentation in the arts.”
“We see a lot of change in the way women are shown in painting and sculpture (at the site),” said Saleh, an art history professor in Santa Rosa, Calif.
The site was “pretty thoroughly looted by an antiquities dealer” in 1995, according to Redmount. New tomb raiders “are finding enough that keeps them coming back,” Saleh said.
Nadia Ashour, general director for antiquities in the region, said the worst looting occurred immediately after the 2011 revolution. An escaped convict was largely responsible until police killed him 2012, she said, and now “the situation is stable.”
Ashour insisted that she is trying to educate residents about protecting antiquities: “In the villages, we spread awareness with the elders, who in turn spread awareness to the people.”
Saleh countered that as long as a private market exists for antiquities, “there is going to be continued looting. The political and economical state of the country is such that antiquities have become a low priority for the average Egyptian.”
Sites such as El-Hibeh are “where we learn how ancient people lived, how history took place,” Redmount said. “It brings it all to life” — unless it's destroyed or lost.
She hopes to return to El-Hibeh this year, but because of looting, “it will be rescue archaeology at that point.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Western Pennsylvania engineer aboard missing Malaysian Airlines flight, employer says
- Analysis: Kesler still on Pens’ radar as Shero aims to bring back ‘Big 3’
- Pirates notebook: Volquez, Morton struggle
- Original tea partyers returning to GOP fold
- Starkey: Steelers know when to say goodbye
- ‘Un-American’? That’s Harry Reid, the Senate’s lowly smear artist
- Wheeling loosens point system to lure table game players
- Pittsburgh fundraiser takes its ‘Q’ from theater designers
- Pirates’ big risk with pitch-heavy draft focus might soon pay off
- Ex-Colts executive Polian: Approach free agency with caution
- Sales offer range of hot items to break cold streak