Saturday, June 22, 2013

Devices for Freedom

"While my workmen were clearing the tomb, they noticed among the rubbish which they were moving a piece of the arm of a mummy in its wrappings. It lay in a broken hole in the north wall of the tomb.", "On seeing it Mr Mace told them to bring it to our huts intact, and I received it quite undisturbed," " I then cut open the linen bandages,  and found, to our great surprise, the four bracelets of gold and jewelry. The verification of the exact order of threading occupied an hour or two, with a magnifier, my wife and Mr. Mace assisting. When recorded, the gold was put on a scale and weighed against sovereigns, before the workmen, who saw everything." (1)

Professor Petrie's previous words understood the value in paying a fair wage to his workers that this would help to secure any objects found especially if the item was historically significant as in the case of this arm. Today that lesson has become a relic of the nineteenth and early twentieth century in Egypt where you are just as likely to end up in jail for finding something and not reporting it.

We pray that in the current environment that an intact historically significant person does not come to light at the hands of those untrained Egyptian's who should be working on behalf of their country with the aid of the Supreme Council of Antiquities but as it stands today the finder will not be payed for their discovery.

Thankfully for the finder if it is gold or silver it can be quickly disguised by melting the pot or jewel down. Objects of less intrinsic value will rarely be seen by the Egyptian authorities or at least it may pass through corrupt officials who themselves need money and will gladly allow the trinket to leave Egypt for the betterment of their children.

Human nature is not a recent habit but the current antiquities authority ignores the obvious, I hate to say it but  as we stand by today a priceless and hopefully redundant history is shoveled out the back door and Egypt gets nothing not even a false sense of security though perhaps that false security is what the revolution left behind and, or tried to overthrow. The antiquities laws need to be reversed and returned to a more pragmatic era.

 Professor Petrie giving an assessment on the value of excavating at Abydos;

"after it was abandoned by Mission Amelineau that at last, on my fourth application for it. I was permitted to rescue for historical study the results that are here shown." "and worse of all for history, came the active search in the last for years for everything that could have a value in the eyes of purchasers, or to be sold for profit regardless of its source; a search in which whatever was not removed was deliberately avowedly destroyed in order to enhance the intended profits". (2)

Two gold falcons -That is about $10,000 U.S., imagine what could be done with that kind of money, how many guards or restorers or site managers, could be hired for that, or given raises, all that in just two tiny late period amulets.  Though many lesser objects in faience can be had for as little as $100.

"In July 1884, Professor Maspero secured permission from the Egyptian government to buy from the natives the property which they held on the site of the Great Temple at Luxor, " (3)

In a past article in 2011, I gave the example of The British Treasure Act where the finder receives the finds or the value of the finds, not unreasonable! That does not mean that Egypt's archaeological sites become fair game only that the Egyptian government and it's vendors could sell what is redundant to raise funds for the workers of one Egypt's most valuable resources.

All this said is without speaking about those artifacts of which are unique coming out of the ground and being lost to the national collection in Cairo to be sold to some foreign millionaire and exported by ingenious people. These are the types of finds that the common digger can point out to the antiquities authorities without need to destroy as the reward would be greater to the diggers continued income with a prestigious well handled find.

The bust of Nefertiti pictured above in 1912 is one of the leading reasons that division of finds no longer occurs in Egypt, to this day the bust sits in Berlin as a continuing thorn in the side of the issue, though it must be remembered that piece was discovered and acquired for an intellectual institution with the proper permits and not by a poor Egyptian..

The looting issue is unfix-able with current Egyptian law and saddest of all it is intellectualism backed up by foreign cash which helped create the police state of the former regime, a system which still holds strong  leading to the present chaos of looting and depriving the living residents along the Nile freedom and opportunity to live legal lives not only unburdened by Egypt's history but lives which can be actually enhanced by it!

Getting into a museum for half price is not an enhancement, it is a piece of political propaganda!

"Egypt’s economic freedom score is 54.8, making its economy the 125th freest in the 2013 Index. Its overall score is 3.1 points lower than last year, reflecting declines in seven of the 10 economic freedoms, especially investment freedom and labor freedom. Egypt is ranked 13th out of 15 countries in the Middle East/North Africa region, and its overall score is below the world and regional averages."(4)


(1). History of Egypt, Rappoport, Volume XII, The Grolier Society, London, 1904, pgs. 369-70
(2). History of Egypt, Rappoport, Volume XII, The Grolier Society, London, 1904, pg. 358
(3). History of Egypt, Rappoport, Volume XII, The Grolier Society, London, 1904, pg. 335
(4). The 2013 Index of Economic Freedom

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