Iraq Banner Desktop

Store Banner Mobile

Representational image of a fake Egyptian tomb interior. Source: Amith / Adobe Stock

Fake Egyptian Tomb Fraudsters Almost Pull Off Legendary Hoax


Egypt’s Public Prosecution office just issued an arrest warrant for a group of crafty criminals who cooked up an ingenious scheme to swindle antiquities traffickers. These daring fraudsters went all out to create a convincing fake Egyptian tomb that almost had everyone fooled. It was nearly a legendary hoax.

According to a statement released on February 17th, law enforcement officers attempted to question a suspicious group of men in a pickup truck on February 15th. The daring crooks were caught red-handed on a hillside in a desert area just outside the historic town of El Hibeh. But, just like a scene from an action movie, the gang of suspects made a mad dash and managed to escape before they could be caught.

The Art of Building a Fake Egyptian Tomb in an Ancient Stronghold

Located in the Beni Suef governorate, about 178 kilometers (110.60 miles) south of Cairo, the ancient Egyptian city of El Hibeh, also known as Teudjoi, El Hiba or Tayu-djayet (meaning “our walls”), was located at the northern boundary of the Theban rulers. The city's strategic location on the Nile passage to the south made it a crucial point of defense within ancient Egypt.

The large enclosure wall at El Hibeh was most likely constructed during the 20th Dynasty (around 1080 BC to 1074 BC) by the High Priest Herihor, under the reign pharaoh Ramesses XI. The city served as a vital fortified settlement during the Third Intermediate Period (1070 BC to 712 BC) with its military and religious importance increasing over time.

El Hibeh was enhanced with additional fortifications that were constructed by army commanders and priests of Amun, while the pharaoh Sheshonq I constructed a temple dedicated to the god Amun within the city. It was here that criminals crafted a fake tomb to delude artifact criminals.

When Fraudsters Are Defrauded: The Tale of the Fake Egyptian Tomb

Egypt’s Public Prosecution office oversees the application of the law across the country, prosecuting crimes, investigating criminal cases and bringing cases to trial. Additionally, the Public Prosecution office provides legal advice to government agencies and officials and represents the state in civil litigation. It therefore plays a critical role in upholding the rule of law in Egypt, especially when it comes to artifact and heritage crimes.

Police inspected the fake Egyptian tomb at El Hibeh, treating it as a crime scene. Inside, they found several ancient-looking statues scattered around a 2-meter-deep (6.56 ft) hole, secured by a bolted metal gate. Further investigation revealed three chambers with additional statues.

Archaeologists from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities examined the site and concluded that the statues and inscriptions in the three chambers of the fake Egyptian tomb were modern creations, not antiquities. The investigators believe that the suspects fabricated the tomb as part of their plot to scam antiquities traffickers.

According to Egypt Independent, the Antiquities Investigation Department have identified a group of suspects in the bizarre case of this fake Egyptian tomb. The Public Prosecution has issued an arrest warrant and investigators are hot on the trail. It's like a real-life version of Indiana Jones.

Fake Egyptian Tomb is Just Latest Chapter in Local Criminal Saga

Egypt is a country with an exceptionally rich history, and as a result, it houses numerous valuable artifacts and antiquities. Unfortunately, over the years, many of these artifacts have been looted and smuggled out of the country, where they enter the international black market and private collections.

In 2018, Egyptian police in the same governorate made a major bust when they nabbed two antiquities traffickers in possession of a huge cache of ancient Egyptian artifacts. Among the treasures were 5,450 Greco-Roman coins, sarcophagi, gold statues and busts, and ushabti statues, as described by Ahram.

Stolen artifacts in Egypt include everything from small pieces of jewelry to massive statues and intricate frescoes. On January 28, 2011, during the height of the Egyptian Revolution, several archaeological sites were looted, including the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square.

During the looting, a group of thieves broke into the museum and stole 54 items, including gold and bronze statues, precious jewelry and other priceless antiquities. Among the items stolen was the famous statue of King Tutankhamun, which had been part of a collection of artifacts discovered in the boy king's tomb in the Valley of the Kings in 1922.

Top image: Representational image of a fake Egyptian tomb interior. Source: Amith / Adobe Stock

By Ashley Cowie



Pete Wagner's picture

If only we all gave equivalent thought to such questions?  How dismal can it get, my friend?

Nobody gets paid to tell the truth.

There are seven billion micro-supercomputers in the World. Some may be in the development stage, while others have seen better days. None of them, though, are used to their full potential.

Some are run largely in a calculator function. These may become mathematicians. Some are run on chat apps and may become radio hosts. Most are largely full of malware, however, including those that seem to do one function well. Some of this malware is from the entertainment industries, which includes art, sport and pop philosophy.

One stream of this malware comes in the form of crime thrillers. The purpose of these is to have us believe justice prevails, mostly. They stimulate emotion rather than reason. They blind the micro-supercomputers to the deceit that is embedded within the limited view of their visual and audio feeds.

Everything is right in the World when just one small-time crook is caught. Meanwhile, a whole host of bigger ones roam free. Some of their employees even catch the small-time ones. This can provide a veneer of respectability to the whole charade.

Is Pete right, below? Well, what he wrote may not be exactly wrong as a general rule, at the very least.

Pete Wagner's picture

Like what happens when one group of deceivers catches another in the act?

Nobody gets paid to tell the truth.

ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

Next article