De Morgans storage facility at Dahshur
Photo from Blue Shield’s report on Egyptian archaeological sites
While Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass now indicates that we still may not know the full extent of the losses from the Egyptian Museum (where, he says, a “complete inventory is still underway”), we at least now have an independent (if incomplete) third-party report on the situation at the archaeological sites, some of which have been looted.
Shield, an international organization for the protection of cultural heritage, particularly in times of major crisis and upheaval (such as the recent uprising in Egypt), last week issued a report on an on-site “civil-military assessment mission” conducted from Feb. 12-16 by Blue Shield’s president, Karl von Habsburg and Joris Kila, chairman of the International Military Cultural
Resources Work Group, with help from Thomas Schuler of ICOM’s Disaster Relief Task Force, who “coordinated the mission from Germany and did background research.”
The report makes it clear that certain areas were kept off-limits to Blue Shield. At Saqqara, for example, “the museum and the main storage facilities next to the main office building were untouched according to the SCA inspector, but could not be visited.”
At the Tomb of Maya, of particular concern to Egyptologists who had heard rumors of damage, there were “clear signs of vandalism (broken locks, broken pieces of wood), [but] supposedly no looting. The entrance to the famous reliefs was sealed with an SCA seal so it could not be visited. It was guaranteed to be in perfect order. The mission had no real reason to doubt this, since reliefs were generally left untouched.” At Dahshur, however, “there was no doubt that looting on a big scale took place.”
The report concluded:
It is important to plan further missions in Egypt in the near future, since only a very small portion of areas where damage was reported could be surveilled. It is strongly suggested by the mission that a conference in Egypt should be planned in the near future to analyze the security situation at archaeological sites, on how to deal with emergency situations and how to create contingency plans using the Egyptian example.