Black market trade of Egyptian artifacts thriving amid post-revolution chaos
Antiquity smuggling has witnessed an unprecedented surge in the two years since the 25 January Revolution since it is an easy way to make immediate money, even if it is on the account of Egypt’s heritage and history.
The fragile security situation in the country and the financial and economic ordeals the population is suffering from are considered the main reasons behind this phenomenon. Given that a small, wooden, carved Pharaonic statue or a marble bust can be sold for a large sum of US dollars, there are many who take advantage of this immediate influx of cash that can immediately improve their standard of living.
Consequently many historic antiquities are found missing from museums throughout Egypt and sealed historic areas are subjected to random excavations carried out by inhabitants looking for any hidden or unknown antiquities.
The Egyptian Council for Culture and Arts mentioned in its report last year that the amount of stolen Egyptian antiquities reached about 3,000 artefacts, probably now residing outside Egypt in the hands of private collectors.
The Ministry of Interior and the security forces have proven to be incapable to stand against and stop this heritage drain in Egypt and the Ministry of Antiquities refuses to publicise which parts of Egypt’s heritage are missing.
Tomorrow is my last lecture in the Pompeii course. The topic is “the victims of Vesuvius.” What would you want to know about the human remains from Pompeii, Herculaneum, etc. and what those remains tell us about life in antiquity?
A tiny amber amulet shaped like a gladiator’s helmet has been discovered in the Walbrook area by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA).
Measuring just over 1cm across, the object was found amongst the remains of a demolished Roman building, together with large amounts of pottery and animal bone. It is hoped that analysis of these will narrow down a possible date for the artefact.
Its distinctive visor and high crest marks it out as depicting part of the equipment of a murmillo, who wore a large enclosing helmet with a grille covering the face. Armed with a short sword or gladius and a rectangular shield called a scutum, he was normally paired against a thraex (Thracian).
Amber was an expensive imported material and was thought to have magical powers. The Roman author Pliny describes how amber amulets could protect children from illness and the symbolism of the gladiator may also be protective.
The ancient site of Alacahöyük in Central Anatolia will be turned into a tourism attraction center with the completion of new facilities. The new plan is scheduled to start in a year. The reconstruction plan for the protection of Alacahöyük has been prepared by the ministry.
Turkey’s well-known ancient site of Alacahöyük, which currently draws around 50,000 visitors a year, in the Central Anatolian province of Çorum, is set to be given new facilities reflecting traces of the Hittite civilization.
The head of the Alacahöyük excavations, Professor Aykut Çınaroğlu, said the reconstruction plan for the protection of Alacahöyük had been prepared by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, was in its final stage and was set to be implemented in a year.
“Ministry officials and representatives of the company that prepared the project came to Alacahöyük and conducted inspections in areas where the project will be implemented. With this plan, the protection area of the ancient site will be widened,” Çınaroğlu said.
He added that some areas would be launched as first degree archaeological areas, and that they had also organized meetings to exchange views with the public about the project that will shape the future of Alacahöyük. “The execution area of the project was discussed at the meeting, which was attended by ministry officials, the mayor, the museum director, and citizens. The project is careful to prevent the suffering of citizens who have rights in the area and a road map was determined by taking views from all sections,” he said.
Terahertz waves are known for their ability to penetrate materials without damaging them, and have in recent years been added to the suite of tools used to examine items of cultural heritage.
These tools span much of the electromagnetic spectrum from X-rays to ultraviolet to the infrared - and of course microscopy with visible light.
Previous studies of Trois Hommes Armes de Lances had used X-ray fluorescence - which yields a list of all the atoms within an object - but showed that there were atoms present in the work that were not present on the surface.
Dr Jackson and her colleagues were called in to apply terahertz imaging to find out what lay beneath.
“After quite a bit of data processing, we were able to pull out some signs that there is a figure beneath… what looked like two eyes, eyebrows, nose, mouth, a shadow for a chin,” she said.