The field season has now ended for the El Hibeh Excavation team, however the fight to stop the looting goes on. This is the final posting from the field from Dr Carol Redmount.
We ended our 2012 Hibeh field season at the Ihnasya Magazine on April 19. I am pleased to report that, despite less than ideal conditions, we were nevertheless able to make a significant dent in our ceramic and small objects backlogs during the month we were working. Rexine Hummel processed approximately 1500 sherds, concentrating on selected excavated areas with well stratified Third Intermediate Period archaeological deposits. The object registry team, headed by Joan Knudsen, reviewed, registered and/or rehoused virtually all the material we transported from the Hibeh magazine to Ihnasya (we left behind at Hibeh large and delicate items that would have been problematic to transport). We especially wish to thank our MSA Inspector, Mr. Rabee Akl, for all his support and assistance, the Director of the Ihnasya Magazine, Mr. Atef Helmy, who so generously let us take over his office for our work, and the General Director of the Beni Suef Inspectorate, Mme. Nadia Ashour, as well as the Cairo MSA officials who gave us permission to transport El Hibeh materials to the Ihnasya Magazine and study them there. We are very grateful to all these individuals.
Unfortunately, our number one concern, the on-going and massive looting at the site, continues unabated. We were very pleased that last Tuesday, April 17, an official delegation, headed by Abdel-Hamid Maarouf, Director General of the Pharaonic Sector, came from Cairo to investigate looting at several sites, including Ihnasya and El Hibeh. The delegation stopped very briefly to greet us at the Ihnasya Magazine and then, after visiting Ihnasya, continued on to Hibeh where they reviewed the damage to the site accompanied by many members of the Beni Suef Inspectorate. We were told that the delegation visited the site for over an hour and took many pictures. It is our sincere and very great hope that their visit will result in rapid and direct action being taken to protect Hibeh and other sites from further looting.
We received permission to return our study materials to the Hibeh Magazine from the Ihnasya Magazine on the last day of our field season, April 19. We rented a truck, packed the materials, and returned them to Hibeh where, after some initial difficulties with the local Hibeh guards who manhandled the bags of pottery, we succeeded in getting everything back in place in the Hibeh magazine. We then visited the site one last time during our 2012 field season with our MSA colleagues from the Beni Suef Inspectorate. Our goal was to bury as many of the scattered mummy/ body parts as we could, and to see whether there had been further damage to the tell. Alas, the answer to that last question is that more large-scale looting had taken place since our last visit, and even in the two days that had passed between the visit of the official delegation from Cairo and our arrival. It appears that dirt from the new looting is used to fill and cover up the holes created by previously looting. Distressingly, more fresh body parts were everywhere, including the mummified forearms and lower legs of a small child. The partial mummy of the woman that we had photographed at our last visit, however, had disappeared. Together with our Egyptian colleagues and the assistance of two site guards we reburied as many body parts as we could, as close as possible to where they were found.
Although this is our last update from our currently field season in Egypt, it is not our final posting. That will not occur until Hibeh is adequately protected. In the coming days we will add more photos to our albums and continue comparing the various looting photos that we have taken ourselves or been sent with each other and with earlier, pre-looting photos of the site. In this way we hope to track, as best we can, the progress of the pillaging. We will also continue to carry on our work to raise public awareness of the looting problem generally — Egypt’s cultural heritage is, after all, an important, non-renewable resource that is also an important part of world heritage — as well as continue our campaign to get Hibeh and other Egyptian cultural heritage sites protected. I leave Egypt shortly to fly to the annual national meeting of the American Research Center in Egypt (the major professional organization of American Egyptologists), which is also attended by Egyptologists from all over the world, where I will be giving a talk entitled “Collateral Damage” that will review the importance of Hibeh and assess the irreparable damage the looting has done and is still doing to the site.
As always, we thank all of you, Egyptians and non-Egyptians, for your steadfast support and we very much hope you will continue that support as we carry our cause forward past the ending of our 2012 field season. We will not stop our efforts until Hibeh and Egypt’s cultural heritage are protected once more, however long that may be, although we very much hope it will be sooner rather than later.
See all the images at http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.364071873645130&type=1