Friday, June 28, 2013

Excavation of 4,500-Year-Old Boat at Giza Pyramids Begins

Excavation of 4,500-year-old boat at Giza pyramids begins

Nevine El-Aref, Tuesday 25 Jun 2013

The first wooden beam of king Khufu's second boat is removed from the pit where it is buried in Giza

A joint Japanese and Egyptian team began on Tuesday the work of removing a 4,500 year old pharaonic boat from the pit on the Giza pyramid plateau where it is buried.

Restorers removed a wooden beam, part of a boat built for King Khufu which was buried in approximately 2,500 BC. The boat was discovered in 1954 along with another identical boat in a separate pit; the latter was removed and restored, and is now on display in a purpose-built museum on the site.

The beam is the first of several which will be removed for restoration.

Since 2009, the boat's wooden beams inside the pit have been subjected to laboratory analysis to determine the types of fungi, insects and viruses that are affecting the boat, as well as the amount of deterioration that has taken place, so that an appropriate method can be selected to restore it and place it on display beside the other boat, known as the Khufu ship.

"The lifting of the beams is the third phase of a long restoration project carried out by an Egyptian and Japanese scientific and archaeological team from Waseda University, in collaboration with the Japanese government," said Ahmed Eissa, minister of state for antiquities.

He explained that the cedar beams of the boat will be removed and restored in a special laboratory constructed at the site, and when all the beams are restored, Khufu's second solar boat is to be reconstructed and put beside its twin at the entrance to the Grand Egyptian Museum which is being built overlooking the Giza plateau.

Eissa said that over the last five years the team had cleaned the pit of insects, but found that water had leaked from the nearby museum which housed the first boat. This had affected a small section of the wood, hence the necessity to finish the studies quickly and restore the wood.

The Japanese team inserted a camera through a hole in the chamber's limestone ceiling to transmit video images of the boat onto a small television monitor on the site.

Images screened showed layers of wooden beams and timbers of cedar and acacia, as well as ropes, mats and the remains of limestone blocks and small pieces of white plaster. The camera allowed an assessment of the boat's condition and the possibility of restoration.

A large hangar has been constructed over the area surrounding the second boat pit, with a smaller hangar inside to cover the top of the boat itself. The structures were put in place to protect the wooden remains during analysis and treatment. A laser scanning survey also analysed the area and the wall between the Great Pyramid and the boat pit.

The second was discovered along with the first one in 1954 in a different pit, when Egyptian architect and archaeologist Kamal El-Malakh along with Zaki Nour was carrying out routine cleaning on the south side of the Great Pyramid.

The first boat was removed piece by piece under the supervision of master restorer Ahmed Youssef, who spent more than 20 years restoring and reassembling the boat.

The second boat remained sealed in its pit up until 1987, when it was examined by the American National Geographic Society in association with the Egyptian office for historical monuments. The excavators bored a hole into the limestone beams that covered it and inserted a micro camera and measuring equipment. The void space over the boat was photographed and air measurements taken, after which the pit was resealed.

Egypt prepares to safeguard heritage before 30 June

Nevine El-Aref, Friday 28 Jun 2013

Broad range of actors join call to protect Egypt heritage from looting during upcoming protests; enact tight security measures around sites

In advance of mass protests planned for 30 June, fears of looting in Egypt's archaeological landmarks, museums, and sites are growing.

These fears have roots in the January 2011 revolution, during which looting occurred in Tahrir's Egyptian Museum as well as in archeological sites across the country. Although several objects were recovered, many others are still missing.

“I am very worried about Egypt’s archaeological sites,” said Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, deputy of the head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Section at the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA).

Abdel Maqsoud told Ahram Online that since the 2011 revolution, the lack of security in the country has posed many problems for the protection of antiquities.

While the 2011 revolution lootings were carried out haphazardly by thugs and vandals, Abdel Maqsoud fears that the 30 June protests will be different because antiquities thieves and traders had enough time to plan their robberies, especially of archeological sites in remote areas.

Abdel Maqsoud called on residents who live nearby archaeological sites and monuments to protect Egypt’s heritage.

“Protecting Egypt’s heritage is your responsibility to our civilisation and our beloved country,” said Abdel Maqsoud. He also asked citizens to collaborate with the police in order to protect the sites from illegal excavations.

Abdel Maqsoud told Ahram Online that the MSA, in collaboration with the Tourism and Antiquities Police (TAP), has established an archaeological committee to secure archaeological sites, museums and monuments across Egypt in preparation for potential turmoil during the 30 June rallies.

MSA minister Ahmed Eissa told Ahram Online that he has ordered all employees to undergo periodical inspections of the sites during this period.

He also asked for the support of Egyptians in this effort, as they did during an attack on the Egyptian Museum during the 2011 revolution.

On 28 January 2011, protestors at Tahrir Square formed a human chain around the museum in order to protect it from thugs and vandals trying to enter. Protestors also managed to detain thieves with stolen artifacts and hand them over to the police.

Egyptian museum director Sayed Amer explained that the museum’s security personnel are working in collaboration with the Public Security Agency (PSA) to protect the museum from all angles. The external wall of the museum has been heightened and barbed wired has been installed. The museum's surveillance cameras have also been inspected.

Director General of the Giza Plateau Mohamed Shiha also detailed security measures being undertaken at the plateau and at Khufu's solar boat museum, including surveillance camera tests.

Similar security measures were also enacted in Luxor and Aswan in order to safeguard its archaeological sites and monuments.

Major General Abdel Rahim Hassan, director of the TAP’s general administration, asserted that the TAP has drawn up a plan to protect monuments, archaeological sites and museums all over the country in collaboration with central security and MSA guards.

According to Hassan, these plans were designed to accommodate rumors that the well organised antiquities 'Mafia' will take advantage of 30 June protests.

Hassan asserted that tight security measures were being undertaken in all zones of interest, including security checkpoints equipped with armed forces, ambulances and fire brigades

“The Ministry of Interior is capable of safeguarding Egypt’s heritage, history and future from any risk,” confirmed Hassan.

The Tour Guides Syndicate has called on tour guides to protect Egypt’s sites, especially the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, according to syndicate head Mootaz El-Sayed.

The Revolution Youth Union (RYU) has asked protesters and the military to protect the country’s archaeological sites and museums ahead of anticipated protests.

The union's media spokesman Omar El-Hadary stated in a press conference that archaeological sites are no less important than banks and governmental institutions, which the police and army have planned to secure during30 June demonstrations.

“Archaeological sites can be looted, as was the case in the January 2011 revolution. The purpose of securing these areas is to preserve Egypt’s distinguished heritage,” El-Hadary stated.

In a related move, the Independent Union of Archaeological Workers announced the formation of committees to protect museums and other historical sites, asking individuals to volunteer through Facebook.

Intellectuals participating in the culture ministry sit-in have called on the army to protect monuments. They have also formed a committee in collaboration with junior archaeologists, curators and concerned citizens to hold tours around Egypt’s archaeological sites in order to raise awareness and to urge the public to play a role in securing the nation’s heritage.

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