By: James K. Hoffmeier, Trinity International University
On January 25, 2011 the Egyptian revolution that toppled the thirty-year dictatorial reign of Hosni Mubarak began. On February 11th, Mubarak resigned. While the political news gripped much of the world, reports of some looting in the Cairo museum surprised everyone. Though limited in scope, security was quickly tightened and a human chair of volunteer guards locked arms around the historic museum. What happened to the museum seemed like a replay of the vandalism that occurred in Baghdad during the Iraq war of 2003, although the losses from the Cairo Museum were minimal. After only a brief interlude, the museum reopened.
Also like the war in Iraq, archaeological sites all over Egypt were plundered for their antiquities in the aftermath of the revolution. This remains an ongoing predicament. Even more distressing, many storehouses of the Supreme Council for Antiquities (now known as the Ministry of State for Antiquities, MSA) were plundered and hundreds of artifacts disappeared. This even happened at Saqqara. The MSA magazines in north Sinai, where the finds were stored from my excavations at Tell el-Borg, were likewise robbed. Pickup trucks drove up to the secure magazines, so the story goes, with well-armed Bedouin. The few guards and antiquities police were overwhelmed. The trucks were loaded up with boxes of stored artifacts and the thieves drove away. Also, in this storage facility were the thousands of sherds and artifacts from Israeli excavations in the Sinai during the occupation of 1967-1982; they were returned to Egypt in the 1990s. I was subsequently advised by an MSA official that the stolen material had been recovered, although I have not been able to verify this in person yet. (more…)