Authorities foil encroachment on Egypt's Tel Al-Amarna archaeological site

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 5 Mar 2013

Although Egypt's antiquities law prohibits encroachments on country's archaeological sites, violations appear to remain commonplace

remains of aten temple

Egypt’s archaeological sites have continued to suffer from both urban and agricultural encroachment.

After Old Cairo’s Ezbet Kheiralla and Giza’s Dahshur, the turn appears to have come for the ancient site of Tel Al-Amarna in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya. The site was Egypt's capital during the reign of monotheistic pharaoh Akhenaton.

According to Mohamed El-Bialy, chairman of the antiquities ministry’s ancient Egyptian antiquities sector, residents of neighbouring village Al-Hagg Qandil recently began cultivating the area around a collection of 18th-dynasty noblemen’s tombs.

When Minya’s archaeological inspectorate learned of the activity, it sent a report to both local police and the antiquities ministry.

The ministry ordered a halt to the encroachment and stepped up security in the area, while tourism and antiquities police were deployed nearby.

Speaking to Ahram Online, El-Bialy pointed out that the Al-Hagg Qandil site had represented an important part of the capital during Akhenaton’s reign.

The site includes a collection of noblemen’s tombs, including that of Iay, one of Akhenaton’s high priests. Iay was also the godfather of the boy king Tutankhamen, after whose untimely death Iay seized the throne.

According to El-Bialy, the area also contains the tomb of Mahou, Akhenaton’s chief of police, along with remains of the Aten temple and the celebrated ‘borders relief,’ which depicts ancient Egypt’s geographical borders with neighbouring empires.

Police and the antiquities ministry appear to have succeeded in stopping the agricultural encroachment on Tel Al-Amarna at an early stage.

In Dahshur, meanwhile, in the urban Giza governorate, new concrete buildings still stand in front of the pyramid of Amenhotep II. Dahshur residents halted construction of the structures after the antiquities ministry offered to provide them with land far from the archaeological site on which to build a cemetery.

Given the current lack of financial resources, however, the removal of such buildings remains difficult. 

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