Two men killed in house collapse as they dig illegally for Egyptian artefacts

Ahram Online , Monday 1 May 2017

Two men were killed on Sunday when their house collapsed while they were illegally digging for ancient artefacts, Egypt's state-run news agency MENA reported.

The two men were digging beneath their home in the southern city of Assiut when the house above them weakend and caved in, according to initial investigations.

The bodies of the victims were pulled from the rubble and transferred to a nearby hospital, MENA said.

Authorities occasionally arrest people for illegally excavating areas beneath their homes in search of artefacts in a country full of buried antiquities.

Any artefacts discovered during unauthorised excavations of this sort may find their way onto the antiquities black market.

In one recent case, a 35-year-old man died while digging for artefacts in the Alexandria area. The man and three others were digging in an empty lot in the district of Kafr Abdou and had dug a six-metre-deep hole. The sides of the hole collapsed, engulfing the victim in sand.

However, in some cases, illegal excavations have turned up important finds, as with the October 2014 discovery of a temple from the reign of New Kingdom King Tuthmose III. Seven residents of the Giza district were arrested in after illegally excavating an area beneath their home, in the course of which they discovered huge limestone blocks engraved with hieroglyphs.

At the time, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh El-Damaty said that the unearthed blocks were genuine and belonged to a huge temple from the reign of King Tuthmose III. Seven reliefs and two marble columns were unearthed, along with a huge red-granite armless colossus of a seated person, El-Damaty. The items were taken to Saqqara for restoration and further study, the minister said.

The Hod Zeleikha area, where the finds took place, was declared an official archeological site under the control of the ministry, with a view to conducting further excavations in the area.

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