Saturday, October 17, 2015

Abusir el-Malek | The World Monuments Fund You Know?
Looting archaeological sites like Abusir el-Malek erases irreplaceable information about human history and cultural milestones.

A Closer Look

Abusir el-Malek

The ancient settlement of Abusir el-Malek sat on a small rise in the fertile floodplain between the Faiyum and the Nile. By 1500 B.C., it was a prosperous settlement with many temples and a vast burial ground and buildings stretching across a large area. Excavations in the early twentieth century revealed burials centered on a cult honoring Osiris, the Egyptian god of the afterlife. The earliest evidence of occupation at the site dates from around 3000 B.C., with the majority of burials beginning 1,500 years later. The cemetery continued to be used for centuries, with the earlier shaft tombs being filled with later burials from the Greek, Roman, and Islamic periods. Thousands of individuals were buried at the site over hundreds of years of use.
Archaeological exploration of Abusir el-Malek in the early twentieth century resulted in many artifacts being placed in museums around the world, bringing attention to the importance of the site and its history. Site work continued in the 1970s, emphasizing again the valuable information being gained from documenting Abusir el-Malek. Following the Arab Spring in 2011, when policing archaeological sites became more difficult, there was a tremendous surge in looting of heritage sites in the region. Abusir el-Malek is one of the archaeological sites that has been particularly heavily looted. The continuing destruction of sites in search of saleable antiquities has resulted in the loss of scientific evidence, artifacts, and understanding of the stratigraphy of archaeological ruins at thousands of ancient sites like Abusir el-Malek. Sadly this situation is not unique in Egypt, or elsewhere in the world. Times of crisis—poverty, conflict, or political turmoil—stretch the protection of our past, often to breaking point.
Placing Abusir el-Malek on the 2016 World Monuments Watch cannot repair the damage to the site, but it can potentially raise awareness about looting and highlight efforts worldwide to stem the tide of illicit trafficking of archaeological objects. Developing alternative sources of income for local communities and incentives for protecting heritage sites, coupled with enforcement of local, national, and international cultural property laws, is a vital challenge.

Fragments of a Greco-Roman sarcophagus at Abusir el-Malek, 2013

Human remains found at Abusir el-Malek, 2013
Inscribed tombs at Abusir el-Malek have been hacked by looters, 2013

Stewardship for Future Generations

World Monuments Fund is a private nonprofit organization founded in 1965 by individuals concerned about the accelerating destruction of important artistic treasures throughout the world. Now celebrating 50 years, World Monuments Fund has orchestrated over 600 projects in 90 countries. Today, with affiliate organizations established in Britain, India, Peru, Portugal, and Spain — World Monuments Fund sponsors an ongoing program for the conservation of cultural heritage worldwide. The World Monuments Watch, a global program launched in 1995 on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of World Monuments Fund, aims to identify imperiled cultural heritage sites and direct financial and technical support for their preservation.