Wednesday, August 15, 2018

2 Ancient Pieces discovered during groundwater lifting works in Aswan - Egypt Today
Groundwater lifting works in Aswan - Egypt Today Groundwater lifting works in Aswan - Egypt Today

2 Ancient Pieces discovered during groundwater lifting works in Aswan

Wed, Aug. 15, 2018

CAIRO – 15 August 2018: The Egyptian Commission affiliated with the Ministry of Antiquities succeeded in discovering two ancient pieces made of mud-sand that date back to the Ptolemaic era.

The discovery was made while the commission was undergoing their current works of removing groundwater from under the Temple of Kom Ombo in the city of Aswan, south of Egypt.

The Ptolemaic Kingdom was founded in 305 BC by Ptolemy I Soter (Macedonian General), who declared himself pharaoh of Egypt and created a powerful Hellenistic dynasty that ruled an area stretching from southern Syria to Cyrene and south to Nubia.

It is worth noting that each discovered piece is two meters in height, and consists of numerous codes and carvings that the commission is working on decoding.

The national project of reducing groundwater in the Temple of Kom Ombo and Edfo in Aswan cost almost $9 million.

The governor of Aswan is co-operating with numerous local and international entities in order to convert Aswan into a modernized touristic hub. Egyptians are very eager for the completion of the conversion and to restore the city's previous solid position among international touristic hotspots worldwide.

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Mystery of volcanic eruption that shaped ancient Mediterranean solved using tree rings | The Independent

Mystery of volcanic eruption that shaped ancient Mediterranean solved using tree rings

New method allows scientists to date event that has been source of controversy in archaeological community

The eruption of              Thera (not pictured) on the Greek island of Santorini buried              the ancient Minoan settlement in a layer of ash and rock              more than 40m deep
The eruption of Thera (not pictured) on the Greek island of Santorini buried the ancient Minoan settlement in a layer of ash and rock more than 40m deep ( Getty/iStockphoto )

An ancient mystery concerning one of the largest volcanic eruptions in the last 4,000 years has been resolved using data collected from tree rings.

The eruption of the Thera volcano on the Greek island of Santorini was a major event felt as far afield as Turkey and Egypt.

Not only did the explosion bury the neighbouring Minoan settlement in a layer of ash and rock more than 40m deep, it has been linked with devastating rainstorms that threw ancient Egyptian society into disarray. 

However, despite extensive evidence for the event from across the Mediterranean region, identifying a precise date for it has proved difficult.

Archaeologists and scientists have pieced together the timing from written records, pottery fragments and radiocarbon dating of plant material preserved beneath the ash.

However, this evidence has been conflicting, and a team of researchers led by Professor Charlotte Pearson at the University of Arizona set out to solve the riddle.

"It's about tying together a timeline of ancient Egypt, Greece, Turkey and the rest of the Mediterranean at this critical point in the ancient world – that's what dating Thera can do," she explained.
Akrotiri is the Minoan town on Santorini that was damaged by earthquakes building up to the eruption and then buried under ash once Thera erupted (Gretchen Gibbs)

The scientists used radiocarbon dating of the annual rings of trees that have been alive since around the time of the eruption, and this allowed them to narrow down the date.

"What we can say now is that the radiocarbon evidence is compatible with the archaeological evidence for an eruption of Thera in the 16th century BC," Pearson said.

"Every tree ring is a time capsule of the radiocarbon at the year in which it grew, so we can say here's a tree ring from 1600 BC and here's how much radiocarbon is in it."

The debate that has raged over the timing of the eruption has primarily been those relying on archaeological discoveries and those using radiocarbon dating.

Professor Pearson and her colleagues compared radiocarbon levels in trees located 7,000 miles apart in California and Ireland, and used these to develop a more accurate radiocarbon system than the "IntCal13" tree ring records currently in use. 

By developing a more precise radiocarbon measure, they have arrived at a date that overlaps with the archaeological evidence.

Their findings were published in the journal Science Advances.

"This research is about Thera, but really, the implications of it are profound for anyone that uses radiocarbon dating throughout the world for this time span," said Dr Gregory Hodgins, one of the study's co-authors.

"There's a kind of revolution in the radiocarbon community to revise the calibration curve using these more precise measurements."

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The human rights situation in Egypt is getting worse. Could withholding American military aid help?

The human rights situation in Egypt is getting worse. Could withholding American military aid help?

The human rights situation in Egypt is getting                    worse. Could withholding American military aid help?
President Trump welcomes Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi to the White House on April 3, 2017. (Mark Wilson)

The pattern over the last five years has been consistent: The U.S. withholds military aid from Egypt, citing human rights concerns, only to eventually release the funds before any substantial improvement.

The first time was under President Obama's administration in 2013. The United States suspended aid after Egypt's first elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted. Two years later, Obama restored the annual $1.3 billion in military financing, citing the need to help Egypt defeat Islamic State militants in the Sinai province.

It happened again most recently under President Trump. After growing concern of repression under Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi's government, the Trump administration froze $195 million in military assistance to Cairo, only to release it at the end of July — 11 months later — despite the Egyptian government not meeting U.S. conditions.

The failure of two administrations to sustain pressure on Sisi's government despite worsening repression on civil society suggests that American national security interests supersede human rights concerns, experts said.

"The U.S. cares more about security than human rights," said Steven Cook, a senior fellow for the Middle East at the Council on Foreign Relations. "It also implies that suspending aid hasn't really done anything to improve Egypt's human rights situation."

Since the late 1970s, the U.S. has viewed Egypt as an important and powerful ally in the Middle East. Part of maintaining that good-faith relationship has been to provide Egypt with military aid.

Egypt is the second-largest recipient of foreign military funding after Israel. Every year the U.S. provides Egypt with $1.3 billion in military assistance that it uses to buy equipment and conduct training.

A year ago, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson froze 15%, or $195 million, of the total annual military aid and conditioned its release on three points: Egypt must downgrade relations with North Korea, repeal a law that restricts the work of nongovernmental organizations and resolve the case of 43 NGO workers who were convicted in 2013 of working illegally.

Egypt and North Korea have had friendly diplomatic and military relations for some time, including weapons purchases from each other.

A small number of the NGO workers left the country after they were convicted but still face jail sentences if they return to Egypt. Egypt's top appeal court ordered retrials for 16 people in April, but the outcome remains to be seen. The workers were employed by various unregistered NGOs, including U.S. and German organizations.

Less than a year after freezing the military aid, on July 25, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo lifted the restrictions without specifying what progress, if any, has been made.

Releasing military assistance to Egypt without seeing improvements in human rights taints the perception that the U.S. is serious in holding Egypt accountable, said Andrew Miller, deputy director for policy at the Project on Middle East Democracy.

"Releasing the money removes pressure on the Egyptian government to meet conditions that were originally attached to that funding," Miller said. "Egyptians will look back and see that this is further evidence Americans aren't serious about human rights concerns. It hurts the idea of using assistance to leverage influence."

The other time the U.S. froze military aid to Egypt was in 2013 over the bloody crackdown and repression of supporters of Morsi, who was affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. He was ousted by the military after massive demonstrations by Egyptians concerned that Morsi was taking the country in an Islamist direction and failing to solve its many problems.

The Obama administration released that military aid in 2015 to help Egypt fight Islamic State militants who had established a toehold in the Sinai.

Since then the human rights situation in Egypt has worsened. Egyptian officials continue to lock up young activists who speak out against the government as tens of thousands of political prisoners sit in jail.

"U.S. policymakers look at Sisi and say he may be a dictator but at least he's taking care of Islamic State in the Sinai. They are willing to overlook human rights violation to maintain security," said Amr Kotb, advocacy director at the Washington-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. "The U.S. views human rights and national security as mutually exclusive."

The next time the U.S. decides to withhold funds, it will have less impact, rights advocates and experts warn.

"The administration fails to understand that the status of human rights in Egypt has a direct impact on U.S. national security interests, including counter-terrorism," Miller said.

Miller said there have been examples in which withholding aid has been effective in the short term, such as pressuring Egypt to release detained Egyptian Americans.

"Military assistance holds are like sanctions in that you're denying something with the hope that it changes behavior," Miller said.

"It's not instantaneous. Obama and Trump have backed down from assistance holds and lifted them before they could have an effect," he said. "It reduces incentives from Egypt. They don't believe our stance, and it prevents more significant change."

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Egypt Exploration Society | British Egyptology Congress 4

British Egyptology Congress 4

The Egypt Exploration Society is delighted to be partnering with the University of Manchester to organise the fourth British Egyptology Congress (BEC) on 7th-9th September 2018. See the announcement here.
Online registration will close at noon on Thursday 16th August 2018
Any booking forms received after 16th August cannot be guaranteed a ticket to the full Congress or a welcome pack
No refunds can be given after 31st July


Almost 100 scholars will present their research across the weekend representing institutions across the world and a range of topics including languages, archaeology, museum and archive, and the history of travel and exploration.
A preliminary schedule is available to download here
(Please note that this schedule is subject to change)
Download the abstracts here.
A special headline lecture by Dr Christan Greco, Director of Museo Egizio, Turin will take place on 7th September at 7pm titled: Biography of the objects: dialogue between Egyptology and Sciences. A ticket for this lecture is included in the Congress tickets below.
All successful abstract submissions should have been notified in May 2018. If you have any questions regarding your submission or have not heard then please email


Attendees wishing to stay in Manchester during the duration of the Congress may wish to stay in the event venue itself.
Rooms are £50 per night for a single occupancy room, en suite bathroom, and breakfast. To book a room at Hulme Hall please book online here. The cost will be £100 for the Friday and Saturday evenings. The deadline to book Hulme Hall accommodation is noon on Thursday 16th August 2018.
If you prefer to stay in another hotel in Manchester then please find available accommodation online here.

Organising partners

The Egypt Exploration Society is delighted to be partnering with the following organisations who will be hosting the Fourth British Egyptology Congress. If you are interested in hosting the Fifth British Egyptology Congress in 2020 then please email the EES at for further details of how to bid.

Download a booking form here, or use the online payment system below. 

Book a place

Ticket Quantity Price

EES and MAES members

Decrease Increase £50.00


Decrease Increase £75.00

Student non-members

Decrease Increase £60.00

Location: Hulme Hall, Oxford Place, Manchester, M14 5RR
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AWOL - The Ancient World Online: Open Access Journal: The Journal of Egyptological Studies (JES)

--   Sent from my Linux system.On 08/13/18 09:01, Charles Jones wrote:
Open Access Journal: The Journal of Egyptological Studies (JES)
 [First posted in AWOL 12 October 2011, updated (full text of vol. 4) 13 August 2018] The Journal of Egyptological Studies (JES)
The Journal of Egyptological Studies (JES) is published by the Bulgarian Institute of Egyptology. It is issued on an annual basis since September 2004. The JES is a result of the development and expansion of Egyptology in Bulgaria. It gives Egyptologists an opportunity to publish new original ideas, new approaches and data in connection with the language, literature, religion, archeology and history of the "place where our hearts live". The Journal of Egyptological Studies is open to the international Egyptolgical society, but also aims to establish a bridge between Western schools of Egyptology and their colleagues from Eastern Europe. As a result of World War II and the political changes, which took place afterwards, part of the connections between scholars from different countries in Europe has been interrupted. Nowadays, for example, few Egyptologists abroad know about fundamental achievements of Russian scholars in the field of socio-economic, political and cultural history of Ancient Egypt. We want to cooperate in filling this gap, encouraging young scholars to contribute to the process of exchange of ideas and experience in our field.
See the full List of Open Access Journals in Ancient Studies

Honoring ceremony for Japanese ambassador held in GEM - Egypt Today
The Grand Egypt Museum (GEM) held on Tuesday an honoring        ceremony for Japanese Ambassador in Egypt, Takehiro Kagawa, on the        occasion of ending his term in Egypt-Ministry of Antiquities'        official Facebook The Grand Egypt Museum (GEM) held on Tuesday an honoring ceremony for Japanese Ambassador in Egypt, Takehiro Kagawa, on the occasion of ending his term in Egypt-Ministry of Antiquities' official Facebook

Honoring ceremony for Japanese ambassador held in GEM

Wed, Aug. 15, 2018

CAIRO – 15 August 2018: The Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) held on Tuesday an honoring ceremony for Japanese Ambassador, Takehiro Kagawa, on the occasion of ending his term in Egypt, according to the Ministry of Antiquities' statement.

The honoring ceremony was attended by Minister of Antiquities Khaled al-Anani, Minister of Tourism Rania al-Mashat, Giza Governor Mohamed Kamal el-Daly, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziri, General Supervisor of the GEM Tariq Tawfiq and many other officials.


Anani praised in his speech the fruitful cooperation between Egypt and Japan in different fields, and the active role played by the ambassador for the Ministry of Antiquities to get the second loan to complete the Grand Egyptian Museum project, due to be inaugurated in 2020.

In the same context, Mashat expressed her pleasure to attend the ceremony at the GEM, which has been constructed in collaboration with Japan. She added that the museum will promote tourism in Egypt in the upcoming period.

She stressed the strong Egyptian Japanese relations, referring to the projects Japan contributed in such as Cairo Opera House and many other projects in the fields of education and health.

Ministries of tourism and antiquities invited Kagawa to attend the GEM inauguration in 2020.

The Japanese ambassador expressed his happiness with the ceremony, and his aspiration to attend the inauguration.

During the ceremony, Anani granted the ambassador a souvenir, a replica of Khufu's ship; the Japanese mission is now working to unearth the rest of the ship, fully refurbish it, and reassure its transportation to its permanent location, the Grand Egyptian Museum.

The GEM General Supervisor Tawfik revealed on June 9, 2018, that the partial opening of the museum will be in the first quarter of 2019.

Tawfik explained that GEM's first stage will be completed by the end of 2018. The Grand Egyptian Museum will witness for the first time the display of all Tutankhamun's artifacts which amount to more than 5,000 pieces gathered in one place.

GEM's lobby will host the statue of King Ramesses II and the column of his son King Merneptah, the grand staircase will include 87 royal statues and large architectural elements, including statues of kings Khafre, Menkaure, Senusret, Akhenaten and Amenhotep III.
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The Middle East’s Other Facebook Revolution: Antiquities Trafficking in the Digital Age

A bas-relief is displayed at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, Sept. 15, 2014 (AP photo by Hadi Mizban).

The Middle East's Other Facebook Revolution: Antiquities Trafficking in the Digital Age

, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018

The instability that followed the Arab uprisings of 2010 and 2011 has given rise to some of the most devastating conflicts the Middle East has ever seen. Syria and Iraq, in particular, have suffered from the dismantling of state infrastructure and the expansion of terrorist and violent extremist organizations, most prominently the self-styled Islamic State.

The Islamic State's short-lived dominion over some of the most archaeologically rich territories in the "Cradle of Civilization" of Mesopotamia gave it control over many of the region's most valuable cultural assets. And the group exploited this to maximum effect. Setting itself apart from terrorist organizations like al-Qaida and the Taliban, whether in Afghanistan or Yemen, the Islamic State was able to commodify cultural heritage as a resource that could simultaneously provide financial sustainability and propaganda value, compounding the psychological impact of its terrorism on civilian populations. Notably, it ushered in a new era of terrorism financing fueled by the black market trade in cultural property.

Although the looting of antiquities is a centuries-old practice, such objects had never before been converted into an extractive resource by a terrorist group. The existence of a robust, and largely unregulated, international market for art and antiquities dominated by Western nations provided ample opportunities to launder movable cultural artifacts into the global marketplace—opportunities that are not available when trafficking in oil, weapons or other traditional sources of terrorist financing.

It is no surprise, then, that antiquities trafficking across the Middle East has caught the world's attention. Yet the world's understanding of how traffickers operate, and how the rise of the internet has fueled their activities, remains limited. Specifically, the use of social media platforms, most of all Facebook, for this kind of trafficking has added a new and largely unexplored challenge to combating it.

Since the Arab uprisings, Facebook has grown to be one of the most-used social media platforms by the region's massive youth populations. As of 2016, there were over 80 million Facebook subscribers across the 22 countries that make up the Arab League, with more than 1.6 million being added every month. As Facebook's subscriber base in the Middle East and North Africa has grown, the platform's capabilities have continued to evolve. What was once a means of uploading photos and videos now offers features including live streaming, video chat communications and options for encrypted messaging.

Facebook is the most high-profile of the social media platforms that have been used as vehicles for the sale of illicit artifacts; others include WhatsApp, Telegram and Viber. Antiquities traffickers use these platforms to evade the authorities and circumvent regulations imposed by online auction and e-commerce sites like eBay, LiveAuctioneers and Etsy (though these sites are frequently used as well).

The current "Community Standards" on platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp fall short of providing the means to report and remove pages and groups that engage in the trafficking of cultural property. While Facebook and other technology giants have had success in targeting the movement of drugs and weapons on their platforms, they have struggled to rein in antiquities traffickers, who have devised their own methods of communication that have helped them skirt rules against such transactions, as well as the artificial intelligence designed to enforce them.

The rise of the Islamic State ushered in a new era of terrorism financing fueled by the black market trade in cultural property.

For the past 10 months, we've been carrying out a study to monitor these traffickers' activities. This work has allowed us to identify Facebook pages and groups in which users are engaging in the smuggling, purchasing and selling of stolen cultural material, including the sharing of information about illegal excavations. Though the study began last October, the data collection process has involved reviewing Facebook archives going back several years. The earliest relevant pages and groups we've found date back to late 2013, indicating that the use of Facebook for antiquities trafficking is a fairly recent phenomenon.

The data analyzed so far has revealed a sophisticated network of looters and traffickers who have developed new tools and methods to facilitate their illicit transactions. These include visuals such as maps and diagrams to aid in looting efforts and a system for submitting specific "loot-to-order" requests that are quickly fulfilled by other group members.

More broadly, it is becoming clear that social media has brought the world of transnational trafficking to the fingertips of a large number of internet users throughout the region, while streamlining the process of executing individual transactions. The complete study will be published in a forthcoming paper.

Looting Tips from a 'Professional Adventurer'

To identify relevant Facebook pages and groups, we began by searching Facebook for broad common Arabic terms related to antiquities. These include the Arabic words used for "treasures," "monuments" and"artifacts." All searches were conducted manually, and no scraping for data was involved, in accordance with Facebook's policies. Once we identified the pages, we canvassed and recorded individual posts and communications.

Groups and pages for the illicit antiquities trade on Facebook facilitate two main activities: looting and trafficking.

Those dedicated to looting are focused on sharing information about how to illegally dig. Group members develop infographics to illustrate the types of tombs that exist in particular locations and regions and their subterranean architecture. In countries like Egypt, users provide instructions, including video instructions, for creating makeshift water pumps to keep looting pits dry from groundwater. They also include tips on how to spot the signs of a promising location for illegal excavation, including tomb entrances.

A sample infographic posted in a Facebook group devoted to looting.
Image retrieved Nov. 7, 2017 (courtesy of authors).

One looting group, to take an example, was created in September 2016 as a means of crowdsourcing knowledge for carrying out illegal excavations and authenticating anything that diggers might find. To gain entrance to the group, Facebook users are required to submit a request to "join" and then answer a brief series of questions in Arabic. The questions include, "Why do you want to join this group?" and "What is your profession?" They are generally broad and they also rotate, meaning not all prospective members go through the same screening process. The groups' administrators review the answers and decide whether to accept or reject admission requests.

Interest in this group seems to have been intense. Within a year, it had amassed more than 51,230 members, despite the fact that it was officially "closed," or private. Roughly 5,000 of those members were active posters to the group page itself. In addition, many group members shared their WhatsApp numbers or requested that any communications be conducted through private Facebook messages, meaning that many of the group members' interactions were kept out of the public eye.

Members have used the group to both request and provide instructions on how to find, excavate and loot from sites and tombs, along with what types of material to look for. These instructions come in the form of detailed posts including images, videos and even labeled infographics depicting, for example, what one might encounter underground when excavating a tomb.

Some members of the group have posted images of Egyptian artifacts on sale at major international auction houses as a means of conveying how much certain types of pieces could be worth and what types of objects are in demand. In one post, dated April 25, 2017, a user provided photos from Sotheby's, the New York-based auction house, of Pharaonic artifacts from Egypt. These included small statues known as shabtis, which are frequent targets for traffickers due to the ease of transporting them. The post include the estimated values of individual Sotheby's lots, apparently as an incentive for those seeking an easy payday. The tactic worked: Just one day after the images were posted, another user shared an image of a similar shabti, albeit of a lower quality, that the user was apparently interested in selling.

In October 2017, a group member based in Cairo posted extensive instructions on how to find and loot a Roman tomb. He described the layers and types of material one would encounter while digging through the tomb toward the actual grave. He noted that tombs include a layer of stone as well as a layer of thick soil, and that diggers might become discouraged by the thickness of the soil and think they've missed the grave altogether He urged them not to give up, and wrote that broken pottery pieces in the soil should be taken as a sign that the grave is nearby. The post featured photos to give users a better sense of what Roman tombs look like. Soon after these instructions were posted, Roman-era material began appearing in postings on the group's page.

A post from a Facebook group devoted to looting with images of Egyptian artifacts that had
recently sold at Sotheby's, the New York-based auction house. Image retrieved
Nov. 7, 2017 (courtesy of authors).

Looting pages also include posts from individuals who are in the process of carrying out excavations. One of the administrators of the aforementioned group has been posting images of ongoing illicit excavations from as recently as June and July. His posts include observations about the risks of death from suffocation or tomb collapse. They also include images of water pumps and hoses he uses as a means of lowering the groundwater in his looting pits. He signs off each of his lengthy status posts with the phrase "memoirs of a professional adventurer."

While the membership of looting groups is generally skewed toward young people who are technologically savvy, online tools have been developed that are geared toward those who are less so. For example, instead of GPS coordinates and images pulled from Google Earth, posts are sometimes illustrated with simple, almost childlike graphics illustrating the underground layout of specific tombs. In one such infographic, posted in November 2017 and illustrating a Roman tomb, a pot of gold is shown at the bottom of an underground staircase near a grouping of trees, giving the image the look of a treasure map.

The Global Trafficking Marketplace

Facebook groups dedicated to trafficking, meanwhile, are more like online marketplaces, primarily used for arranging the movement of specific pieces and establishing connections between middlemen and buyers.

These groups generally have smaller memberships, with a greater rate of repeat-engagement by members. One of the Facebook pages we examined was operational from 2013 until this past March, when Facebook removed it for undisclosed reasons. Though it had a total membership of just over 16,000, significantly lower than some of the looting groups we examined, some 2,020 members were seen actively engaging and posting on the page with regard to the purchase, sale or theft of artifacts. We have also identified multiple users who are active on several trafficking pages. Some of them offer the same artifacts on more than one page.

Of the 2,020 members we studied, 1,552 provided information identifying their current locations. The traffickers come from places like Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Yemen, Turkey and Iran, as well as destinations outside the Middle East. Dozens of users in the United States, Germany, England, France, Belgium and elsewhere were engaged in the sale and purchase of artifacts through the page.

Looters are now targeting material with a previously unseen level of precision—a practice that Facebook makes remarkably easy.

Most members seemed to be using their real Facebook profiles. This means information like their gender, hometown and current location—and even the schools and colleges they attended and their cell phone numbers—is potentially visible to anyone with a Facebook account. Based on their relatively limited engagement with trafficking pages, it's reasonable to conclude that these are less seasoned traffickers.

While the communication on trafficking pages we examined primarily takes place in Arabic, people write in a variety of other languages, including English, Farsi and French. At least some conversations are facilitated across language barriers by the translation tools provided by Facebook.

For years, heritage experts have understood that looters and traffickers routinely share knowledge and learn from one another about the trade. Prior to the expansion of internet access in the Middle East, though, traffickers connected primarily through face-to-face interaction and other traditional means of communication like phones and snail mail. The internet in general, and Facebook in particular, have sped up communications and exponentially increased the ability of such people to develop networks, exchange information and conduct business transactions across national borders relatively securely.

The content of both the looting and trafficking groups enriches our understanding of the knowledge traffickers possess and how they operate. Until recently, we knew that looters and traffickers would devise missions based on local knowledge and sharing information by word-of-mouth. The use of infographics, however, shows that many looters have a much more complete and sophisticated understanding of what they are looking for, and a more methodological approach to seeking out tombs and other looting sites, than experts previously realized. And while this detailed knowledge used to be in the hands of the few, social media has allowed it to be disseminated to the masses.

Our research also shines a light on loot-to-order transactions, in which artifacts are stolen in response to specific requests, or "orders," for material. Until now, there has been little evidence confirming that this actually happens.

On Facebook, though, it unfolds in plain sight. On one of the trafficking pages we reviewed, its administrators were making loot-to-order requests less than two months after the page was created. These requests included contact information for the requesting buyers, who were themselves often middlemen. The requests covered particular types of cultural property from particular periods. For example, the administrators at one point indicated they were seeking Islamic-era manuscripts and books that could be made available in Istanbul, Turkey, by a specific date. Other times, they posted requests for Jewish manuscripts, books and artifacts that could be made available in Amman, Jordan. (Amman is a common transit point for traffickers moving material into Israel, which has a large market for Jewish artifacts.)

A post from a Facebook group devoted to trafficking shows a "loot-to-order" request for
Jewish material in Amman, Jordan. Image retrieved Nov. 6, 2017 (courtesy of authors).

Responses to these requests varied. Some members would post a comment showing an image of the type of object being sought, illustrating an ability to fulfill the order. Others would simply state that they had an example of the type of desired object, and request to communicate privately with the administrator. Others would post their contact information, such as an email address or phone number, to connect more securely.

These loot-to-order requests signify a major evolution in antiquities trafficking. Looters are now targeting material with a previously unseen level of precision—a practice that Facebook makes remarkably easy.

Confirming Looted Pieces

People share all kinds of images, videos and other content on social media, so how can we be sure that artifacts being offered on these pages are actually what traffickers say they are?

Some pieces are so rare that they are easy enough to track. For example, on-the-ground intelligence gathered by The Day After Initiative, a Syrian-led civil society organization currently based in Istanbul, combined with our own online research, has allowed us to trace the journey of one especially rare, perhaps even one-of-a-kind item.

The piece is carved from limestone with four outward-looking, intricately detailed carved faces. The object was probably an ornamental fitting. It was initially tracked by The Day After and documented by its affiliates in June 2015. It originated in territory once held by the Islamic State, most likely Raqqa or Manbij, both cities in Syria, before making its way to southern Turkey. Two years later, it appeared in a post on a Facebook page devoted to antiquities trafficking.

We do not know what has become of the piece, as communications about it have been conducted in private. However, its quick journey to the online marketplace suggests that looters are not sitting on antiquities for extended periods.

A screen grab from footage of an artifact that had been looted from Islamic State-held territory in Syria
in 2015. The footage was obtained by affiliates of The Day After Initiative (courtesy of authors).

In other cases, photographs and video footage of antiquities and other items are posted on Facebook in the places where they were originally discovered. Carved reliefs, freshly unearthed artifacts and even chandeliers in historic mansions have all been offered up for sale with accompanying images. The sellers, in these cases, are simply waiting to identify interested buyers before looting them.

In general, though, it can be difficult to confirm the provenance of antiquities being hawked online, and it is up to buyers to establish their authenticity. Sellers usually provide opportunities for buyers to verify the origins of goods by allowing them to examine the goods either personally or through a trusted local intermediary. Moreover, payment is usually made only after the buyer has secured, and presumably authenticated, the goods.

An Uphill Battle

Whether it appears on a Facebook group or at a formal auction house, any sale of artifacts originating in Syria, Iraq and most other countries in the Middle East these days is likely to be illicit due to the fact that such transactions are prohibited by more than half the countries that make up the Arab League. Countries where the trade is prohibited include Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia and Yemen. The antiquities trade has also been suspended in Lebanon since 1988, after the government there determined it could not control the market because of the country's civil war.

In Egypt, which is home to a majority of the members of Facebook trafficking groups we surveyed, looters and traffickers face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 1 million Egyptian pounds, or around $55,000. Egypt is also considering a new law that would increase the penalty for looting or trafficking to life in prison.

Such penalties, however, are difficult to enforce, as online transactions are almost impossible to regulate. To be sure, certain platforms have recently taken steps to discourage fraudulent and otherwise illegal transactions. In September 2017, eBay released a new seller regulation policy that expressly prohibits the exchanging of emails, phone numbers and other personal contact information between users. The eBay policy update also strongly discourages any commercial interaction between users outside its platform. Unlike Facebook, eBay also has an entire policy dedicated to cultural relics.

What was once an underground industry, accessible only to seasoned traffickers, has been democratized.

Officially, transactions on Facebook must take place via its Marketplace or Buy and Sell Groups features. But as we've observed in our study of how Facebook is actually used, members can easily get around this by making their communications private or migrating to other social media platforms like WhatsApp.

Facebook does not currently enforce an explicit ban on transactions involving illicit cultural property. Following Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg's testimony before Congress in April, Facebook began undertaking a massive rewrite of its User Agreement and Community Standards, which presents an opportunity to incorporate such a ban. This would potentially help the platform target and remove future trafficking and looting pages before they gain traction. However, the Congressional hearings concerned an altogether different set of issues, and there is no indication that curbing antiquities trafficking is an objective of the rewrite.

Such initiatives aside, the slow regulatory response to the rapid growth of illicit antiquities trafficking online has likely encouraged more and more people to get involved. What was once an underground industry, accessible only to seasoned traffickers, has been democratized. The proliferation of Facebook and other social media platforms has created a different kind of revolution in the Middle East, one that enables any cultural property thief to operate as a transnational trafficker with contacts and buyers far and wide.

While these new digital communities may be difficult to track, by infiltrating them we can better understand how they operate. Using Facebook as a vehicle for "stealth" ethnography allows us to see how these groups' tactics continue to evolve, potentially allowing for the adaptation of new methods to combat the plundering of the Middle East's cultural riches.

But our findings also underscore the fact that we are facing an uphill battle against antiquities trafficking. As criminals continue to adapt, we must adapt with them to have any hope of saving our past.

Amr Al Azm is a Professor of Middle East History and Anthropology at Shawnee State University in Ohio. He is a founder and board member of The Day After Initiative and currently coordinates the Heritage Protection Initiative (HPI) for cultural heritage protection in Syria. Follow him on Twitter at @alazmamr.

Katie A. Paul is a research analyst based in Washington, DC. She is an affiliated researcher with The Day After Initiative and has served as a fellow at the Antiquities Coalition. Follow her on Twitter at @AnthroPaulicy.
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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

In pics: Darb Sinai: the longest walking path in Egypt - Egypt Today
Tourists are walking through the mountains in Darb Sinai -        Press photo Tourists are walking through the mountains in Darb Sinai - Press photo

In pics: Darb Sinai: the longest walking path in Egypt

Tue, Aug. 14, 2018

CAIRO – 14 August 2018: Darb Sina, which means the ancient paths of Sinai, is a place where one can enjoy nature, history and adventure.

Darb Sinai starts from Aqaba Gulf to the heights of St. Catherine, giving travelers the chance to see the best natural scenery in Egypt. It is considered a top tourist attraction with its heights and sandy dunes.


Amidst this charming nature, it takes two weeks of walking through the mountains to discover the Bedouin life and its details which begin with breakfast and end up with sleeping under the moonlight. For those who are interested in medicinal and aromatic plants, there are 472 plant species to explore in St. Catherine.

Darb Sinai was one of the most important topics discussed by Minister of Tourism Rania el-Mashat with Amr Samra, the first Egyptian to climb Mount Everest.

Samra suggested some ideas to boost tourism in Darb Sinai, explaining that Darb Sinai is the first long walk in Egypt.


Mashat welcomed the ideas presented by Samra, noting that the ministry is ready to cooperate with him to implement these ideas in the future.

Samra added that the Wanderlust magazine described Darb Sinai as the best natural path in the world.


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Egyptian cuisine – a 'pyramid' of exotic flavours

Egyptian cuisine – a 'pyramid' of exotic flavours
  • Rabbit meat, mutton, beef, lamb, and camel meat are widely used in their dishes.
  • Fruits, vegetables, and pulses, grown on the banks of the Nile, are used abundantly.

Egypt which is home of the pharaohs and the great pyramids, could rightly be called the land of mouth watering cuisine as well. The Egyptian civilization has contributed to some of the most exotic flavours that are relished by millions of people. It is believed that coffee was first produced in Kafa, an Egyptian province. The Egyptians honour the Nile as their sacred 'mother' which nourishes their land and blesses them with prosperity. The country largely depends on the Nile for agriculture as Egypt receives meagre rainfalls due to its unique geographical position between the Mediterranean and the Red sea.

The 'gift' of Nile

The fruits, vegetables, and pulses which are grown on the banks of the Nile are used abundantly in the Egyptian cuisine. After the floods when the river valley became extremely fertilized, cultivation of shallots, ginger, cabbage, tomato, garlic, cucumber, radish, turnip, pulses, leak and lupine increased. Besides, fruits like apples, olives, pomegranates, grapes and figs too were grown in abundance. The Egyptian cuisine, which has lots of vegetarian, uses this fresh produce generously.


Meat dishes made with duck, goose, quail, squab, crane, and ostrich are special delicacies in the Egyptian cuisine. Rabbit meat, mutton, chicken, beef, lamb, and camel meat too are widely used in their dishes.

The history of flavours

The gastronomic history of Egypt could be traced to the different parts of the world. Egypt was a major exporter of spices through the many ports in the Red sea. So, unique spices sourced from around the globe were easily available in the local Egyptian 'souk' (market) as well. Cumin seeds are a primary ingredient in the Egyptian dishes, besides coriander, cardamom, chilli, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, mint, dill, bay leaf, fennel seeds, fenugreek, and mustard, and curry leaves.

The Egyptian cuisine was significantly influenced by the ancient Persian, Greek, Roman, Arabic and Ottoman Turkish cuisines. Later, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian influences too became evident in the Egyptian dishes. It is known that the Egyptians drank wine from 3000 BC onwards. In the days of yore, exotic wine was made by men, crushing juicy grapes in large vessels, with their feet, and the must (freshly extracted grape juice) stored in huge clay cellars for brewing.


Dishes like kebabs, kofta, shawarma, vegetables stuffed in grape leaves are similar to the East Mediterranean cuisine. In Egyptian cooking, 21 different varieties of oils are used.

Art of 'Eating'

Many paintings and engravings on the century's old tombs depict scenes of elaborate feats, acts of cooking and hunting. Evidences prove that a special kind of soft, white, salty cheese called the domiati cheese was consumed from the time of the pharaohs. This cheese was found from the mud vessels excavated from the ancient burial places and tombs which date back to 3000 BC. In the earlier days, the Egyptians ate fresh dates as dessert. Archaeologists have even found dates among the various food items stored in tombs for the dead to feast on. Drawings of roasted deer meat marinated in honey, duck roasted over fire, pomegranates, jujube, and honey cakes are found on the walls of these ancient burial places.

Breads and beers were made form wheat, barley and farro. Farro, a whole grain was widely used to make bread, gruel and beer, and wheat soup was one of the popular dishes in Egypt. Cheeses like domiati, arish and rumi were major ingredients in the dishes in the past. However, today, mish, a salty fermented cheese is widely used in the Egyptian cuisine. Even from centuries ago, fish was cleaned, rubbed with salt, and dried in the sun. Sea food forms an important part of the Egyptian food culture especially in the coastal regions of Egypt.

Traditional dishes


The pita bread, which could rightly be called the traditional dish of Egypt, is baked at a very high temperature. Eesh Baladi, a whole wheat bread, is served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Eesh means 'life' in Egyptian, and this appropriately denotes the importance of food in the Egyptian culture. Foie gras, an Egyptian speciality, is made with the liver of the duck that has been fattened through the gavage technique. Food historians claim that this exclusive dish has been consumed in Egypt as early as 2500 BC onwards. Delicacies made with the brain of goat are relished by the Egyptians. Eesh fino, bread packet stuffed with chopped liver, capsicum, pepper, cumin and garlic fillings is also a popular dish. Shayi or black tea added with fresh mint leaves is a refreshing beverage. Sipping hot or cold hibiscus tea on a pleasant evening is the favourite pastime of the Egyptians.

Other important dishes

Kushari, made with rice, macaroni, and lentils mixed together, and topped with specially prepared tomato-vinegar sauce, and garnished with chick peas is one of the most popular dishes in Egypt. In fact this dish, which is loaded with different ingredients and spices, is known as 'food of the poor.' Foie mudmus, known as the 'king' among the Egyptian street food, has fava beans, salt, pepper, cumin seeds and olive oil as the main ingredients. This dish, eaten alongside pita bread, is usually cooked in bronze vessel a day before it is actually served.

Hamam mahshi is a stuffed squab grilled to perfection. In Egyptian, 'mahshi' means stuffed. Another popular mahshi dish, inspired from the Mediterranean cuisine, is spice infused rice stuffed in grape leaf and cooked in tomato sauce. A squeeze of lime before serving adds the perfect tang to this aromatic rice. Fiteer baladi, known as Egyptian pizza, can be consumed as a sweet or savoury dish. It is baked in traditional clay oven, and can be made sweet by adding honey or sugar syrup, or spicy by filling it with meat, vegetables, cheese, and spices.

Falafel or tameya is a fried vegetable dish made with fava beans and loads of aromatic herbs like parsley, coriander, and cilantro. Meat balls, called kofta, are made with minced beef or lamb mixed with spices, and roasted on coal. Chunks of beef kebabs, crispy havashi lamb sandwich are the perfect dishes to relish at a grand gala.

Kunafa is an Egyptian dessert which looks like thin noodles (semolina). It is baked with fresh cream and lots of nuts. Baklava is another popular sweet pastry dish with chopped nuts and sugar syrup or honey. Pickled vegetables called torshi is an unavoidable side dish on the Egyptian platter. The Egyptian tagine, the fragrant fish stew, is similar to the Moroccan tagine.

Unpublished Egyptian texts reveal new insights into ancient medicine

Unpublished Egyptian texts reveal new insights into ancient medicine

August 14, 2018 by Lise Brix, ScienceNordic

Unpublished Egyptian texts reveal new insights into ancient        medicine
Instructions for a 3,500-year-old pregnancy test. Credit: Carlsberg Papyrus Collection / University of Copenhagen

The University of Copenhagen in Denmark is home to a unique collection of Ancient Egyptian papyrus manuscripts.

A large part of the collection has not yet been translated, leaving researchers in the dark about what they might contain.

"A large part of the texts are still unpublished. Texts about medicine, botany, astronomy, astrology, and other sciences practiced in Ancient Egypt," says Egyptologist Kim Ryholt, Head of the Carlsberg Papyrus Collection at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

An international team of researchers are now translating the previously unexplored texts, which according to one of the researchers, contain new and exciting insights into Ancient Egypt.

"It's totally unique for me to be able to work with unpublished material. It doesn't happen in many places around the world," says Ph.D. student Amber Jacob from the Institute for the Study of The Ancient World at New York University, USA. She is one of four Ph.D. students working on the unpublished manuscripts held in Copenhagen.

The Egyptians knew about kidneys

Jacob's research focuses on the medical texts from the Tebtunis temple library, which existed long before the famous Library of Alexandria, up until 200 BCE.

In one of the texts, she has found evidence that Ancient Egyptians knew about the existence of kidneys.

"It's the oldest known medical text to discuss the kidneys. Until now, some researchers thought that the Egyptians didn't know about kidneys, but in this text we can clearly see that they did," says Jacob.

The papyri also reveal insights into the Egyptian view on astrology.

Unpublished Egyptian texts reveal new insights into ancient        medicine
This little piece of papyrus is believed to contain a type of oracle question. The author has written two possible outcomes for a situation and asked the gods to indicate which one was the truth. Credit: The Papyrus Carlsberg Collection/ University of Copenhagen

"Today, astrology is seen as a pseudoscience, but in antiquity it was different. It was an important tool for predicting the future and it was considered a very central science," says Ryholt.

"For example, a king needed to check when was a good day to go to war," he says.

Astrology was their way of avoiding going to war on a bad day, such as when the celestial bodies were aligned in a particular configuration.

Egyptians' contribution to science

The unpublished manuscripts provide a unique insight to the history of science, says Ryholt.

"When you hear about the history of science, the focus is often on the Greek and Roman material. But we have Egyptian material that goes much further back. One of our medical texts was written 3,500 years ago when there was no written material on the European continent," he says.

Analysing this 3,500-year-old text is the job of Ph.D. student, Sofie Schiødt from the University of Copenhagen.

One side of the manuscript describes unusual treatments for eye diseases, says Schiødt.

Papyrus text discovered in Germany

The other side, describes the Ancient Egyptian equivalent of a pregnancy test and scan.

Unpublished Egyptian texts reveal new insights into ancient        medicine
Sofie Schiødt in front of a 3,500-year-old medical papyrus. Credit: Mikkel Andreas Beck

"The text says that a pregnant woman should pee into a bag of barley and a bag of wheat. Depending on which bag sprouts first reveals the sex of her child. And if neither of the bags sprout then she wasn't pregnant," says Schiødt.

Her research reveals that the ideas recorded in the Egyptian medical texts spread far beyond the African continent.

"Many of the ideas in the medical texts from Ancient Egypt appear again in later Greek and Roman texts. From here, they spread further to the medieval medical texts in the Middle East, and you can find traces all the way up to premodern medicine," she says.

The same pregnancy test used by Egyptians is referred to in a collection of German folklore from 1699.

"That really puts things into perspective, as it shows that the Egyptian ideas have left traces thousands of years later," says Schiødt.

"Every single contribution is important"

Translating the unpublished texts is important work, according to Egyptologist Hans-Werner Fischer-Elfert from the Department of Egyptology, University of Leipzig, Germany.

"We still have a very fragmented knowledge of the natural sciences in Ancient Egypt. Therefore every singly contribution is important," he says.

"Today there are still a number of sources that theoretically were known by scientists but still sat dormant in various collections around the world without anyone looking at them in detail. Now the time has come to recognise them."

 Explore further: Ink from ancient Egyptian papyri contains copper

Provided by: ScienceNordic

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Another Ancient Sphinx Is Discovered Near the Valley of the Kings, Adding Fuel for Egypt's Tourism Rebound | artnet News

The Avenue of Sphinxes on the Al-Kabbash road in Luxor. Photo courtesy Tom.Blackie via Flickr.

Another Ancient Sphinx Is Discovered Near the Valley of the Kings, Adding Fuel for Egypt's Tourism Rebound

The new discovery is a smaller relative of the mythical creatures.

A previously unknown statue of a sphinx has been discovered in Egypt, the general director of Luxor Antiquities, Mohamed Abdel Aziz, announced on Sunday.

Construction workers upgrading the historic Al-Kabbash Road between the famous Luxor and Karnak temples stumbled upon the find, the English-language Egypt Today reports.
While some news outlets compared the discovery to a second version of the monumental Great Sphinx of Giza, the new find seems to be more of a country cousin. But in a nation struggling to rebuild its tourism industry, every new antiquity helps.
The Ministry of Egyptian Antiquities is developing a way to lift the newfound statue from its resting place, in the hope of avoiding a repetition of the fiasco last year in Cairo when an 24-foot-tall statue of a pharaoh's head was lifted with an excavator, leading to accusations of negligence. In the meantime, construction work has been paused on the road and the Minister of Antiquities, Khaled al-Anani, is encouraging tourists to visit the site to see the statue.

A researcher in Egyptology, Bassam al-Shamma, told Egyptian media that the find is not altogether surprising as many similar sphinx statues have been found across Luxor. Several new discoveries have been found in recent years, and the road is already lined with many other small stone versions of the mythical creatures dating from around 1400 BC. Some of these are being excavated and repaired as part of the project to pave and restore the road and the equivalent of over $33 million has already been spent on the project since it began in 2005.

The Great Sphinx of Giza. Photo by Cros Bouroncle/AFP/Getty Images.

Egypt's tourism industry has shown signs of recovering after a lengthy slump caused by the country's political instability and a series of terrorist attacks. Last year, a reported 8 million people visited the country. In 2016, only 5 million went.
The mythical creature of the sphinx has the head of a human and the body of a lion. In ancient Greek tradition, the sphinx's head is often a merciless female, killing and eating all those who cannot answer its riddle. For the Egyptians, though, the guardian creature was seen as benevolent, and the heads of the statues were often carved in the likeness of pharaohs. This is the case with the famous Great Sphinx; the monumental statue is thought to have been sculpted in likeness of the pharaoh Khafra.
Other famous Egyptian sphinxes include a granite example with the head of the pharaoh Hatshepsut, which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Great Sphinx of Tanis in the Louvre is one of the largest the largest sphinxes outside of Egypt.

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