News / Africa

Egypt’s 'Indiana Jones' Calls It Quits

Zahi Hawass, head of the Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, pictured above, resigned over what he considered a lack of security at the country's historic sites (file photo)
Zahi Hawass, head of the Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, pictured above, resigned over what he considered a lack of security at the country's historic sites (file photo)
David Byrd

The celebrated head of the Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, has resigned. The man responsible for overseeing Egypt’s historical sites said he stepped down because many of the ancient sites are not being properly protected. Now, the new government is scrambling to replace the man who has become the worldwide face of Egyptian archaeology.

Zahi Hawass, known in some circles as “Egypt’s Indiana Jones,” was the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities for nearly a decade. He was in many ways the face of Egyptian archaeology.

In late January, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak had elevated the SCA to a Cabinet level position with Hawass as its head.   

But this week, Hawass said he was resigning. On his website, he said he was leaving because the Egyptian army could not protect all the ancient sites and no tourist police were available. That led to looting and damage of several heritage sites.  

Hawass said the tomb of Hetep-ka at Saqqara, the tomb of Petah-Shepses at Abu Sir and the tomb of Em-pi at Giza had been damaged. Some storage magazines had also been attacked and several items looted. Hawass said he resigned because he could not stop the looting.

Salima Ikram
Salima Ikram

Salima Ikram is a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo (AUC). She told VOA that some of the looting can be attributed to opportunists just looking for gold or other treasures. However, she added there is another group - armed thieves who break into sites and do irreparable damage.

Fayza Haikal, the former head of the Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Egyptology department at AUC, says Hawass did a lot to raise the profile of Egypt and increase tourism to the country. She is hopeful that Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s new government will quickly move to protect ancient sites.

“If ever they had a doubt that something is happening, they call the police, they report to the police. And there are no police for the moment,” she said.

“I hope it will not be for very long because now the new administration, the new Cabinet is in place, so I hope that it will soon get active again and the monuments will be protected again,” Haikal added.

Haikal said that one way to prevent looting is for the world to refuse to buy plundered antiquities. She says anything that appears on the market for the next few years has to be suspect.

“To buy things is to encourage looting,” she said. “So I don’t know why the looters are doing that because I don’t think that they can really sell what they are taking now. But the one thing that is very, very important is that if there is no demand, there will be much less looting.”

Zahi Hawass was not without detractors. He was criticized for a domineering style and for boosting his own media profile. There were also protests about jobs and pay for Egyptologists in the country.

But he increased the salaries of SCA employees, offered medical benefits and was working on a union for archaeologists. He was also a staunch advocate for recovering plundered artifacts. During his tenure, 5,000 high-value antiquities were returned to Egypt.

Salima Ikram says Hawass’s academic credentials remain untarnished, and even though he is no longer the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, he will remain a powerful figure in archeology.

“So the idea that just because he is not in charge of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, he is not going to be an extremely active and perhaps even a more active member of the academic community is not a worry for us,” Ikram added.

Prime Minister Sharaf has appointed Emad Abou-Ghazi as the head of the Ministry of Culture. However, after several archaeologists demonstrated in Cairo, the Antiquities Department remains separate. Several names have been put forth to replace Hawass. Egyptologists, historians and archaeologists are hoping whoever succeeds “the Egyptian Indiana Jones” makes preserving and protecting ancient sites the top priority.

 

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid