CAIRO - The keeper of Egypt’s archaeological treasures sees hope for the nation’s future in its pharaonic past.
Mohammed Ibrahim, head of the antiquities ministry, likens Egypt’s turbulent emergence from autocracy to the periods of decline that afflicted the nation on the Nile between the fall and rise of its three ancient kingdoms.
“We have passed through similar periods like that, even in antiquity,” said Ibrahim, custodian of the pyramids, tombs and temples that bare witness to one of the world’s oldest civilizations. “Every time Egypt passes through this period, it recovers very quickly, very strongly.” Read more.
Egypt’s antiquities minister announced on Friday the discovery of a princess’s tomb dating from the fifth dynasty (around 2500 BC) in the Abu Sir region south of Cairo.
“We have discovered the antechamber to Princess Shert Nebti’s tomb which contains four limestone pillars,” Mohamed Ibrahim said. The pillars “have hieroglyphic inscriptions giving the princess’s name and her titles, which include ‘the daughter of the king Men Salbo and his lover venerated before God the all-powerful,” he added. Ibrahim said that the Czech Institute of Egyptology’s mission, funded by the Charles University of Prague and directed by Miroslav Bartas, had made the discovery.
“The discovery of this tomb marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the sepulchres at Abu Sir and Saqqara,” Ibrahim said. Read more.
CAIRO — Cairo’s salmon-colored Egyptian museum is a conspicuous landmark on Tahrir Square, where it stands in almost perfect condition despite the intense protests that took place on its doorstep almost two years ago.
At the height of the revolution last year, a human chain formed to protect the priceless artifacts within the museum. A few yards away, the burnt out husk of former President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party headquarters is a reminder of a different possible fate.
But the revolutionary, carnival enthusiasm of the square has since given way to neglect and disrepair and the difficult job of retrieving stolen antiquities is proving to be an uphill struggle.
Despite the efforts of its protectors, looters managed to make off with 50 of the museum’s treasures, including a statue of King Tutankhamun carried by a goddess, and a sandstone head of a princess from Amarna, a vast archaeological site in the southern province of Minya. Read more.
During construction work carried out by the Ministry of Endowments at the Al-Khamis market area, which is next to the archaeological site of Matariya in northern Cairo, workers stumbled upon a part of an ancient Egyptian stele.
Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim explained that the newly-discovered stone artefact is the right section of a New Kingdom stele, on which is displayed a complete, illustrated list of various offerings to ancient Egyptian deities. A collection of geese, vegetables, fruits, bread, and cattle is depicted.
Lotus flowers are also shown, as well as religious worship poetry in hieroglyphic form.
Although the cartouche of the owner or the reign when it was engraved has not yet been identified on the stele, Ibrahim said that it would reveal more of the history of this mysterious area, which includes monuments from the early pharaonic to the Ptolemaic era. Read more.
An attempt to smuggle 11 Graeco-Roman artefacts out of Cairo International Airport was foiled on Thursday when the Tourism and Antiquities Police arrested an Egyptian man at the customs section. The man claimed to be carrying replicas from Khan El-Khalili bazars. The pieces he was carried were reportedly stolen from an as yet unidentified archaeological site in Egypt.
The archaeological unite at the airport inspected the objects and approved their authenticity. The man has been arrested and the objects confiscated and taken to the Egyptian museum for inspection in order to ascertain what site they came from.
Hassan Rasmi head of the Antiquities Seizures Unit told Ahram Online that the confiscated objects consist of Graeco-Roman artefacts of different sizes, shapes and materials among them a collection of Terracotta (burned clay) statuettes depicting ancient Egyptians and Roman deities such as Isis, Osiris, Horus and Aphrodite. Read more.
ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis museum can keep hold of a 3,200-year-old mummy’s mask, a federal judge has ruled, saying the U.S. government failed to prove that the Egyptian relic was ever stolen.
Prosecutors said the funeral mask of Lady Ka-Nefer-Nefer went missing from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo about 40 years ago and that it should be returned to its country of origin. The St. Louis Art Museum said it researched the provenance of the mask and legitimately purchased it in 1998 from a New York art dealer.
U.S. District Judge Henry Autry in St. Louis sided with the museum.
The U.S. government “does not provide a factual statement of theft, smuggling or clandestine importation,” Autry wrote in the March 31 ruling.
“The Government cannot simply rest on its laurels and believe that it can initiate a civil forfeiture proceeding on the basis of one bold assertion that because something went missing from one party in 1973 and turned up with another party in 1998, it was therefore stolen and/or imported or exported illegally,” the judge wrote. Read more.
Last Wednesday, the people of Cairo woke up to a piece of bad news. Two 19th-century pieces of embroidered Al-Kaaba Kiswa (the Kaaba cloth) had been stolen from the Khedive Tawfik mausoleum in the eastern cemetery, the Qubbat Afandina.
The pieces, embroidered with calligraphy in gold and silver threads, were two of many that were sent over the years by the Egyptian monarchy to cover the Kaaba in Saudi Arabia. They were hanging on the walls of the mausoleum.
Each one consisted of three decorated coloured ribbons embroidered in gold and silver depicting verses of the poem Al-Sira Al-Mohamadeya (Biography of the Prophet Mohamed).
The thieves escaped and are now at large. Investigations are now underway to identify those responsible and bring them to justice. Read more.
The Antiquities Seizures Unit (ASU) arrested a British couple trying to smuggle 19 artifacts dated to different archaeological eras at Cairo International Airport on Sunday.
Hassan Rasmi head of the ASU said that these objects include five clay and green faience ancient Egyptian Ushabti (funerary figurines) each nine centimeters tall, clay pots with human-shaped heads, Late Period lamps decorated with winged amulets and the goddess Isis, Ostraca (inscribed stone reliefs), Graeco-Roman bronze coins and Coptic manuscripts, and a Bible.
In collaboration with the customs police, the objects were confiscated and transferred to the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square where it would be subjected to archaeological examination and restoration. Read more.