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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population 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.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid