Friday, December 23, 2011

Ten Events Marking a Year of Strength and Sadness

What a fantastic and tragic year for the Egyptian people a revolution that began in January threw out general Mubarak and the old guard though as the year ends we find the Egyptian people back in the streets throwing rocks and being beaten up and brutalized by their army under the control of the next wannabe Mubarak, field marshal Tantawi who has brought upon the Egyptian people an "annus horriblis" as he appears to be usurping the peoples revolution.

With all of this happening in Egypt Egyptology seems trivial and unimportant and took a back seat though a number of significant events did take place.

1. The dreadful burning of the Institute de Egypte in mid December must rank as Egypt's greatest cultural loss since the rise of the Aswan damn and lake Nasser in the late 1960's. Field marshal tantawi blames the protesters for the destruction of the library even though his men were in control of the building?

2. I am sure that most of my readers will know that I was no fan of Egypt's former culture minister and former long term head of Egypt's Supreme council of antiquities, Mubarak's mini me with all the threats and barking, now the science can be better served with hopefully the right of many opinions and not the singular opinion. So my list must include the departure of this and a brighter future for Egyptian's, Egyptologist and Egyptology.

 3. Certainly as head of the Supreme council of antiquities must fall the break in of the Cairo museum in January and the lax security which allowed the loss of many of the smaller objects from particularly the Amarna collection but also other periods including most of Yuya and Thuyu's shabti's and the gilded figure of Tutankhamun from atop a statuette of a goddess as just a couple of examples of what's missing. Some of the missing items came back, in a couple of cases suspiciously and there was the sickening sight of returned objects badly damaged.

4. After the robbery of the Cairo museum the workers took many weeks to present a public listing while the head of the Supreme council of antiquities mislead the public of what was stolen and what they presented to the public was nothing short of a bad joke revealing the museums ledgers and pictures of the missing objects to be laughable they did not even have a picture of a vase so they presented a crude line drawing of it.

5. Many objects deemed stolen were returned to Egypt this year including from Australia came over 120 artifacts in November while even more notable must be the return in August of artifacts from king Tutankhamun's tomb collected by Howard Carter and returned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York whom also acquired a fragment of a red granite naos taken a century ago and returned it back to it's place in Egypt at Karnak. 

 6. In June the world of Egyptology lost the great Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt who wrote many books on Egypt and will be remembered for her work preserving Nubian temples from the rise of lake Nassar and also be remembered as the first woman to lead an archaeological excavation in 1938.

7. Over at the Ashmolean museum the new Egyptian galleries are receiving praise with many more mummies on display while Sir David Chipperdale won the prestigious Mies van der Rohe prize for his recreation of Berlin's Neues museum.

8. Another year of mummies being poked and prodded and put in machines with the result that heart disease has been found in the 3500 year old mummy of princess Meryetamun. There was also mummies that exhibited signs of ancient air pollution in them.

9. In April after 13 years of restoration the 4th century Coptic church known as the hanging church was finished and inaugurated for Coptic Easter.

10. The St. Louis Art Museum continues it's disgraceful fight to keep the19th dynasty cartonnage mask called Kha-Nefer-Nefer but this year American authorities got involved as the evidence clearly points to theft of the piece from Egypt.

Photo: Jonathan Rashad

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