ARCENCPostings

Monday, June 28, 2021

Former Egypt MP held over looted relics

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1883726/middle-east

Former Egypt MP held over looted relics

Former Egypt MP held                        over looted relics
A former Egyptian MP said to be the ringleader of an international smuggling gang is facing charges of excavating and trafficking antiquities following his arrest by security agencies. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 June 2021
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  • Hassanein and 17 others were remanded in custody for four days pending investigations
  • Investigations revealed that he personally led a gang that excavated and trafficked antiquities

CAIRO: A former Egyptian MP said to be the ringleader of an international smuggling gang is facing charges of excavating and trafficking antiquities following his arrest by security agencies.
Alaa Hassanein, a flamboyant former member of President Hosni Mubarak's now-dissolved National Democratic Party, was among 18 people arrested on Thursday on charges of illegal excavation and smuggling of 201 Pharaonic, Greek and Roman artefacts, the Interior Ministry revealed.
Hassanein has appeared in local media previously claiming to have dabbled in black magic and exorcisms, according to AFP.
Investigations revealed that he personally led a gang that excavated and trafficked antiquities, the ministry said.
A five-minute video accompanying the ministry's statement listed the looted relics, including "two wooden tablets engraved with hieroglyphics, 36 statues of various lengths, 52 copper coins believed to be from the Greek and Roman periods, and three black basalt plates."
Three bronze statues, a clown statue, and three surgical needles dating back to the Islamic era were also found.
Hassanein and 17 others were remanded in custody for four days pending investigations.
The prosecution in southern Cairo called for a committee from the Supreme Council of Antiquities to examine the seized pieces.
Smuggling antiquities in Egypt carries a life sentence and hefty fines.
On Wednesday, Egypt's public prosecutor said in a statement that Cairo recovered about 115 stolen artefacts in Paris after a two-year joint operation with French judicial authorities.
The statement did not reveal the full contents of the trove, but an accompanying 15-minute video showed Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities chief Mostafa Waziri explaining that some of the artefacts date back to "the ancient Egyptian civilization."
Cairo has announced several major new archaeological discoveries in recent years, hoping to revive a key tourism sector.

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Friday, June 25, 2021

Egyptian prosecution orders detention of former MP, 17 others for trafficking antiquities - Politics - Egypt - Ahram Online

https://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/415004/Egypt/Politics-/Egyptian-prosecution-orders-detention-of-former-MP.aspx

Egyptian prosecution orders detention of former MP, 17 others for trafficking antiquities

The prosecution's decision comes a day after the police discovered former MP Hassanin, who served during the one-year term of late-President Mohamed Morsi, along with 201 antiquities in a warehouse in Old Cairo

Ahram Online , Friday 25 Jun 2021
Antiquities
Police detects 201 antiquities in a warehouse in Old Cairo. Egyptian Ministry of Interior video/screenshot

The public prosecution of southern Cairo on Friday ordered the detention of Alaa Hassanin, a former Parliament member, and 17 "gang members" for four days pending investigation over involvement in the illicit excavation and trade in antiquities, an official statement read.

The prosecution's decision comes a day after the police discovered former MP Hassanin, who served during the one-year term of late-President Mohamed Morsi, along with 201 antiquities in a warehouse in Old Cairo.

The antiquities included two paintings of a sarcophagus inscribed with hieroglyphs, 36 statues of different lengths, four Ushabti figurines, two wooden statues, an Ushabti with alabaster, two bronze statues and a stone statue that dates back to the Greek era.

The artifacts seized also included 58 coins that date back to the Roman and Greek eras, a pottery bowl and other various antiquities.

The stealing, unlicensed excavation, spoiling and the smuggling of antiquities is punishable by hefty fines and tough prison sentences in Egypt that amount to life imprisonment (25 years in prison).

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ALEXANDRIA AND THE KOM EL-SHOQAFA – GREEK, ROMAN OR EGYPTIAN? Tickets, Wed, 7 Jul 2021 at 7:00 PM | Eventbrite

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/alexandria-and-the-kom-el-shoqafa-greek-roman-or-egyptian-tickets-157292964491

ALEXANDRIA AND THE KOM EL-SHOQAFA – GREEK, ROMAN OR EGYPTIAN?


Event Information

While most of the ancient city has disappeared, the catacombs of Kom el-Shoqafa present a remarkable blend of Roman, Greek & Egyptian images

About this event

Abstract: The city of Alexandria was one of the greatest of the ancient world, renowned for its marvels. Despite this, it has largely been ignored by Egyptologists, who typically have seen it as no more than a point of departure for other sites in Egypt. Classics scholars have filled this vacuum. While most of the ancient city has disappeared, the catacombs of Kom el-Shoqafa present a remarkable blend of Roman, Greek and Egyptian images reflecting the multicultural character of the ancient city. How do we interpret these images? Do we view them through Greek, Roman, or Egyptian eyes?

About the speaker: Mark is President of the SSEA National and has been a Trustee of the Society on and off since 2006. Ancient Egypt and ancient civilizations in general have fascinated him since about age 13. In pursuit of this long-held interest, Mark is a Departmental Associate at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), a ROM Gallery Interpreter and former executive member for the Friends of Ancient Egypt, also at the ROM. Under the auspices of the SSEA, he has been the lead researcher for the project "In Search of Ancient Egypt in Canada/À la recherche de l'Égypte ancienne au Canada", putting him in touch with museums across Canada. Mark has presented and published widely on topics related to ancient Egypt and Egyptian antiquities in Canada. He teaches courses for the Kingston Seniors' Association and the Oshawa Seniors' Centre in person and, since May 2020, online as well. He has also been assisting Queen's University's Master of Art Conservation Program with a project to study and conserve three fragmentary, ancient Egyptian coffins.

This is a fundraiser for the SSEA-Toronto's Nick Millet Student Travel Scholarship.

Date and time

Location

Online event

{ _('Organizer Image')}

Organizer Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities (SSEA) ~ Toronto Chapter

Organizer of ALEXANDRIA AND THE KOM EL-SHOQAFA – GREEK, ROMAN OR EGYPTIAN?

The offiical Toronto chapter of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities.

With chapters in four Canadian cities — Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary — and a Head Office in Toronto as well as an American subsidiary, the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities/La Société pour l'Étude de l'Égypte Ancienne (SSEA/SÉÉA) is a Canada-based not-for-profit organization founded to:

  • Stimulate interest in Egyptology
  • Assist interested professionals and non-professionals alike with their research and training in the field
  • Sponsor and promote archaeological expeditions to Egypt

The SSEA also offers travel grants and scholarships to students who wish to do research in Egypt. The SSEA/SÉÉA is a Registered Charity in Canada and the United States.

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Artefact created 2300 years ago contains text from the Book of the Dead | Stuff.co.nz

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/125550494/artefact-created-2300-years-ago-contains-text-from-the-book-of-the-dead

Artefact created 2300 years ago contains text from the Book of the Dead

 
STACY SQUIRES/STUFF
A 2300-year-old fragment of linen that once wrapped an Egyptian mummy has been matched with another fragment held in the US.

The adjoining piece is held at Getty Institute in Los Angeles and the discovery was made after the Christchurch fragment was catalogued online.

It once wrapped an Egyptian mummy and includes spells from the Book of the Dead. Now a 2300-year-old piece of linen held in a Christchurch museum has been matched with a fragment in the United States.

The ancient cloth dates back to 300BC and was taken from the tomb of Petosiris, located 340 kilometres south of Cairo.

Pieces of the shroud are in museums and private collections around the world but exactly how the 52 fragments came to be separated remains a mystery.

The Christchurch section was bought at auction by University of Canterbury in 1972 and is housed at Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities, one of the most significant collections of Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Near Eastern artefacts in New Zealand.

As well as Egyptian hieratic script, the wrapping features scenes of life from the early Ptolemaic period (305 to 30BC), such as butchers cutting up an ox as an offering, men carrying furniture for the afterlife and a man pulling a sledge bearing an image of Anubis, the Protector of the Dead.

University of Canterbury classics associate professor Alison Griffith said it was "just amazing" to be able to piece the fragments.

"We put our collection online on an open-source database called eHive. When you do this the whole world can see what you have.That started the process," she said.

The ancient fragment includes images of life during the              Ptolemaic dynasty, about 2300 years ago.
STACY SQUIRES/Stuff
The ancient fragment includes images of life during the Ptolemaic dynasty, about 2300 years ago.

"The Getty Museum has a piece of the same wrapping and started to look at the pictures and the script on it, and they figured out that the text was continuous from one piece to another."

Although there was a gap in the two pieces, the pictures and text indicated they were adjoining fragments, she said.

Another fragment was held at the RD Milns Antiquities Museum at University Of Queensland and staff were investigating whether it also fit.

In earlier periods, Egyptians wrote directly on the walls of the tomb, however they later wrote on papyrus, a material similar to paper.

Other images on the fragment include a hawk, an ibis and jackals, as well as a funerary boat with the figures of goddess-sisters Isis and Nepthys on either side.

University of Canterbury associate professor Alison              Griffith with the ancient fragment at Christchurch's Teece              Museum of Classical Antiquities.
STACY SQUIRES/Stuff
University of Canterbury associate professor Alison Griffith with the ancient fragment at Christchurch's Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities.

The text, which is read from right to left, contained passages from The Book of the Dead, an Egyptian textthat included spells and instructions "to ensure the deceased person makes it into the afterlife", Griffith said.

"It shows us about funerary customs and beliefs and the critical importance of making sure the deceased is properly buried and the right rituals get them to the afterlife.

"The reason people were mummified was so that the body provides a place for the soul, or ka, to return to."

Dr Foy Scalf, head of Research Archives at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, said the fact fragments were now scattered around the world "is an unfortunate fate for Petosiris, who took such care and expense for his burial".

"And, of course, it raises all sorts of ethical issues about the origins of these collections and our continued collecting practices."

The shroud originally came from the collection of Charles Augustus Murray, who was British Consul General in Egypt from 1846-63, and later became part of the collection of Sir Thomas Phillips (1883-1966).

Terri Elder, curator at the Teece Museum, said the discovery showed how valuable the Logie Collection was for teaching and research.

"It also shows how valuable it has been to put our collection online," she said.

"The story, like the shroud, is being slowly pieced together."

The Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities, at the University of Canterbury Arts city campus (in the Christchurch Arts Centre), is open to the public Wednesday to Sunday, 11am to 3pm.

The Christchurch fragment is not on public display but can be viewed by appointment.

You've just read this Canterbury article for free. Together, we can keep it that way.


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    Wednesday, June 23, 2021

    The Thorny Ethics of Displaying Egyptian Mummies to the Public

    https://undark.org/2021/06/23/thorny-ethics-displaying-egyptian-mummies/


    -- 

    The Thorny Ethics of Displaying Egyptian Mummies to the Public

    In 1823, the chief surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, John Warren, prepared to autopsy a 2,500-year-old corpse. Warren figured examining the Egyptian mummy — a gift from a patron that had been placed in the hospital's surgical ward to collect quarters from gawkers — would advance knowledge of the ancients. He carefully began cutting through the old linen, and then stopped. He had exposed a blackened but exquisitely preserved head: high cheekbones, wisps of brown hair, gleaming white teeth. As Warren later recounted, this was a person, and "being unwilling to disturb" him further, he stopped there.

    Fast forward to last October, when the press was on hand as Egyptian archaeologists opened the first of a cache of 59 recently discovered mummies for the whole world to see, revealing a perfectly wrapped body. Video of the event went viral, and the Twitter pushback followed: "Even in death POC can't escape the prying and opportunistic advances of white people," wrote one user, in a tweet that gained nearly a quarter-million likes.

    The question of whether it is unseemly, ghoulish, disrespectful, or even racist to display ancient corpses, or whether it's a noble contribution to science and education, has nagged mummy displays since Warren took up his scalpel nearly 200 years ago. And the Black Lives Matter movement's focus on issues of cultural ownership and appropriation has only added fuel to a persistent ethical dilemma for museums and experts who study mummies.

    The issue is the topic of academic forums and scholarly papers, but the implications are real, both in Egypt and abroad. "It's a huge subject of debate in our field right now," said Pamela Hatchfield, the former president of the American Institute for Conservation, a professional association of art conservators.

    In April, onlookers watched as 22 mummies were transported to a new museum in a lavish parade through the streets of Cairo. By one estimate, at least 350 institutions around the world display Egyptian mummies, and the abiding fascination with the ancient kingdom of the pharaohs has made those displays a vital draw for museums, leaving scientists and curators to weigh increasingly fraught questions: Should mummies whose linen wrappings have been removed be re-wrapped for sensitivity? Ought the body, linens and all, be placed back in its coffin? And should that coffin be open, closed, or removed from display altogether?

    For Heba Abd el Gawad, an Egyptologist in Cairo, the idea of displaying human remains is "disturbing." But, she said, she cannot speak for all Egyptians and that different perspectives should be considered. "Being an expert or a specialist," she said, "doesn't mean I have to dictate to people how they should feel about their ancestors, and even if they see them as their ancestors or not."

    Among the American museums that have reconsidered how they display mummies in recent years is the Rhode Island School of Design Museum in Providence. The museum had a 2,100-year-old mummified priest named Nesmin in residence since 1938. Lying wrapped next to his coffin, he was a hit with sixth-grade field trips. But in April 2014, he was moved to a more conspicuous central hall and soon became the focus of a debate over how to treat racial and cultural histories.

    Some critics called the display disrespectful, or even offensive. In 2016, the museum held a public discussion. One researcher with Egyptian roots said she was "struck at having to see one of my ancestors on display this way." She offered hymns and moments of silence, and said she "wanted to bring flowers" to the old mummy.

    After long reflection, the museum staff gently lifted Nesmin back into his coffin in August 2018. Then, they shut the lid, returning the mummy to eternal darkness.


    Advocates for greater modesty say mummies did not agree to have their bodies put on public display, and that cultural respect demands they be removed from view. Other experts argue that ancient Egyptians embraced the union of death and life, and that the dead were mummified to give the spirit a body, and thus would have welcomed some modern interaction with the living. But those arguments fly against the current demand for greater cultural sensitivity.

    "Everyone is afraid to speak up," said Jasmine Day, a scholar and president of the Ancient Egypt Society of Western Australia in Perth, who said objections to displaying mummies are coming from "the fashionably offended." She said she is "alarmed to hear about the wave of conservatism and risk aversiveness sweeping through the world of museums."

    Some critics maintain that racism infused the White-dominated collection of antiquities. White explorers, collectors, and archaeologists brought mummies by the hundreds back from Egypt in the 1800s and early 1900s, though many of them were dug up by Egyptian tomb raiders or bought from Egyptian authorities.

    A French tourist reported in 1833 that "it would be hardly respectable" to return from Egypt "without a mummy in one hand and a crocodile in the other."

    The coffin of Nesmin, a 2,100-year-old priest whose wrapped remains were displayed until 2018. Visual: Rhode Island School of Design Museum Appropriation Fund and Mary B. Jackson Fund

    At the entrance to the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum in Baltimore lies a partially unwrapped female called the Goucher mummy, with her arms crossed on her chest. In 2008, Sanchita Balachandran, associate director and conservator at the facility, said she worked for weeks to try to stabilize the condition of the mummy. "I spent a lot of time with just her," Balachandran said, and developed "a personal relationship with a human being, with a person." As a result, she said that her feelings about public exposure of the mummy have evolved.

    "I think people are very disturbed by encountering a real person just lying there," she said. Balachandran said she is conflicted about the display and has gradually become more protective of the Goucher mummy. Before the pandemic closed the museum, "people used to come in and take selfies of her, right? And I would say, 'You know what, she doesn't give you her consent to be photographed. So you can't do that.'"

    Activists and scholars calling for change say mummies have long been objectified by museums, which treat them as artifacts. Indeed, despite Warren's 19th-century epiphany that the mummy in his care, named Padihershef, was a human being, the corpse remains under a glass case at the old surgical ward of the hospital, his head still unwrapped, staring forever skyward.

    "I spent a lot of time with just her," Balachandran said, and developed "a personal relationship with a human being, with a person."

    The ethical view of mummies began changing in the United States after the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, and its echoes for Indigenous Americans. In 1990, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act required the return of Indigenous remains to tribes in the U.S. Afterward, museum officials began to look uncomfortably at the Egyptians in their holdings. "When you begin to think about it, you know, what is the difference between Native American remains and Egyptian remains?" said Gina Borromeo, chief curator and curator of ancient art at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum.

    "Do mummified human remains belong in an art museum? He's not an art object. He's a human being," said Ingrid Neuman, a senior conservator who agonized alongside Borromeo when students began raising objections to the display of Nesmin during a packed meeting in 2016. "I think that a human body is different than a painting on the wall in a museum."

    The clash of opinions brackets the dilemma for museums. In choosing how to display mummies, whose voice counts: The perceived wishes of the ancients? Modern Egyptians? Scientists and scholars? Or museum patrons? In a Skype interview, Abd el Gawad said the views of modern Egyptians like herself are too often ignored because of the "racist colonial misperception" that "the human remains coming from ancient Egypt are unclaimed and uncontested."

    "We are not seen as the ancestors of the ancient Egyptians," she said.

    Others argue it is far from obvious what the ancient Egyptians — who desperately sought immortality — would have wanted, or who should speak for them now. Day, the Australian researcher, agrees that mummies deserve respect, but thinks removing them panders to a modern aversion to seeing the dead. Museums should "display mummies in a way that presents them as people, not 'here is an object in an art museum,'" she said via Skype. But museums can humanize ancient Egyptians, she added, by using "Human Remains" warning signs, hushed rooms, darkened lighting, and limited access to mummy displays.

    Peter Lacovara, a former senior curator at the Carlos Museum in Atlanta and currently the director of the Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund in New York, calls objections to the display of mummies "uninformed" about the ancient Egyptian religion. "More than anything, Egyptians wanted to be seen, they wanted their likenesses to be seen. They wanted to be remembered," Lacovara said. "They wanted to be part of the world of the living. And of course, this is what museum displays do."

    Mimi Leveque, a Boston consulting conservator who has inspected or preserved more than 40 mummies, suggested that, handled correctly, mummies can be deeply edifying. "If treated with respect," she said, "a body has a tremendous amount to tell us." Leveque said she often worked on mummies in museum labs open to public view, which invariably boosted the number of visitors to the museum. "People wanted to see it."

    Leveque also said she believes the old Egyptians would have approved, and that museums are in fact helping to deliver on an ancient desire to be well-remembered into posterity. "From the point of view of the person who was excavated, what they wanted was to have their personality remembered, their name repeated," she said. "The ancient Egyptians said that if your name is remembered, even if your body doesn't make it, you will have an eternity."

    In that light, where better for a mummy to end up, she suggested, than in a museum? "[Mummies] are in, what is in effect, a glorious tomb," she said. "Isn't that what these museums are?"

    Even if that's true, however, Abd el Gawad suggests that at least some of the wishes of the ancients are known, and not open for interpretation. There are very clear instructions on what ancient Egyptians wanted to happen to their bodies after death, she said, "and that doesn't include unwrapping mummies or displaying mummies out of the coffin."


    Doug Struck is a veteran reporter who covered the Middle East for The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun. He teaches journalism at Emerson College in Boston.

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