Egypt's Dahshur ancient heritage under immediate threat

Nevine El-Aref , Sunday 13 Jan 2013

Dahshur archaeological site, home of the first ever complete pyramid, is being plundered by vandals and thieves

the black pyamid zone

A lack of security continues to negatively impact on Egypt’s archaeological sites. A few months ago, Ezbet Kheralla, in Old Cairo, home of early Islamic monuments, was subject to damage by neighbouring residents. Today is the turn of Dahshur.

Inhabitants of Ezbet Dahshur invaded the archaeological zone adjacent to the Black Pyramid of King Amenemhat III with bulldozers and guns. They put their hands on the land and start digging a private cemetery on top of artefacts buried in sand. The area was a cemetery for ancient Egyptian nobles; a German excavation mission unearthed several funerary objects there.

Guards at the site confronted the invaders but their attempts to repell them failed due to lack of arms.

Nasser Ramadan, director general of Dahshur archaeological site, told Ahram Online that he and his team reported the incident to the police but they failed to intervene. Even the minister of state for antiquities failed to take any steps to stop the encroachment.

Ramadan added that Dahshur was subject to thugs and vandals since the January 25 Revolution due to a lack of security, but it was never like this before.

People also dig the sand in search of artefacts, which are sold on the black market, he said.

“Our heritage is in danger and nobody is rescuing it,” Ramadan pointed out, calling on all concerned authorities to move to save and protect Egypt’s ancient heritage.

Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim expressed regret that the Tourism and Antiquities Police has insufficient forces to remove any encroachments on archaeological sites. What complicates the situation is that the invaders are armed.

"We will study a new mechanism to compel people not to encroach upon the archaeological area," he said.

Dahshur is a royal necropolis located in the desert on the west bank of the Nile almost 40 kilometres south of Cairo. It is known for its several pyramids, two of which belong to King Senefru, the founder of the 4th Dynasty and father of King Khufu, along with other pyramids and tombs of the Middle Kingdom, including the Black Pyramid of Amenemhat III and the White Pyramid of Amenemhat II.

It also has the 600 feddan wide lake of King Farouk which is filled in September, attracting different species of birds from all over the world.

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