Ancient Egyptian Tomb to be Cut Up and Moved to Tourist Hotspot, Sparking Fury
A well-preserved Ancient Egyptian tomb is being relocated to a museum sparking a wave of resistance among archaeologists who are concerned that it might get damaged in the move. And of course, predictably, the world's biggest media outlets are suggesting the 'curse of the pharaohs’ might be unleashed.
When stories emerge about Ancient Egyptian history, journalists across the world select the type of data and information from a story to write around, that will hopefully be most useful to the reader to help them draw their own conclusions. Then some senior editor gets a hold of the piece and the base facts are often sensationalized and framed in a new context and in this latest controversy the 'curse of the pharaohs’ has been shoe horned in.
Setting the curse aside, earlier this year archaeologists uncovered two tombs containing a pair of human mummies – believed to be a mother and her young child – and 50 mummified animals including, falcons, cats and dozens of mummified mice. The tomb was built for a man named Tutu and his family. It is believed to date to an era defined as the early Ptolemaic period, which ended with the Roman conquest in 30 BC.
At the time Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters at the BBC it was a “beautiful, colorful tomb… made up of a central lobby [dived in two] and a burial room with two stone coffins.”
The Ministry of Antiquities recently ordered that this incredibly well-preserved tomb be relocated from its remote Al-Dayabat archaeological site in Sohag to Egypt’s New Administrative Capital museum over 500km (300 miles) away.
Amidst its narrative on ‘the curse’, The Sun reported that “the ministry has already started to cut the walls of the tomb to pieces so it will be in suitably sized transportable chunks.” Offering reason for this move the ministry deem it a “necessary act” to save the isolated burial chamber from being “subjected to ravage, or robbery.”
The ministry finds itself caught between a ‘rock and a hard place’ and as they move this tomb, a faction of archaeologists aren't happy and accuse the ministry of failing to preserve antiquities by taking them from where they were found.
These complaints are not just being hurled by rabble-rousers as their seems to be a solid legal argument which was described in a Daily News Egypt report by archaeologist Monica Hanna: “Relocation of this tomb is a clear violation to the ‘Venice Charter’ for the restoration of historical places; and what the ministry is doing is all about destroying this antiquity, instead of saving it.”
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- Ritual and Burial: The Strange and Elaborate Ways Humans Prepared Animals for the Afterlife
Inside the painted tomb. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities
The Venice Charter was compiled in 1964 by the International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments in Venice as an international framework for the conservation and restoration of historic buildings. It sounds somewhat extreme to accuse the ministry of willfully violating the Venice Charter’s article seven which states: “A monument is inseparable from the history to which it bears witness and from the setting in which it occurs”. But is it?
The charter was drawn up to stop precisely this type of potentially destructive archaeology and it is very clear that moving a monument “cannot be allowed except where the safeguarding of that monument demands it” except when “it is justified by the national or international interest of paramount importance.”
Moustafa Waziri, the Secretary-General of Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters at Daily News Egypt : “In the New Administrative Capital’s Museum, all of the important figures, and tourists from all around the world will have the chance to see the tomb, which will allow thousands if not millions of people to enjoy it.” Whether this is “of paramount importance”, or not, you can decide.
Return of The Curse
Returning to the supposed curse , while it is said to cause bad luck, illness or even death, the ‘mummies curse’ was associated with King Tutankhamun and the people who died after opening his tomb and somewhere over the last 60 years this was broadened and became the generic ‘curse of the pharaohs’. The tomb being moved is neither associated with Tutankhamun or any other pharaoh, so those 50 mummified animals will not be squeaking and flapping in archaeologists’ bedrooms anytime soon, and neither should they get in the way of your thoughts about this archaeological controversy.
Part of the stash of mummified cats, birds and mice found in the tomb. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities
What I find unfortunate in the reporting of this story so far is that those archaeologists in opposition of the tomb being moved seem to have failed to provide an alternative idea. It’s just not cool to pull apart the efforts of others without supplanting them with better, more efficient ideas. Alternative solutions might indeed be out there, but the tomb is so remote and insecure that they will have to be pretty well thought out to beat moving it to a museum.
Top image: The mummified remains of the woman and boy found in the tomb. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities
By Ashley Cowie