The present lack of security in Egypt continues to have negative effects on the country’s archaeological sites, especially those located in remote areas. , reports Nevine El-Aref
On the west bank of the Nile at Aswan where the Qubbet Al-Hawa (Dome of the Winds) ancient Egyptian necropolis is located, three dozen members of an armed gang attacked five of the tombs and robbed their contents recently, also illegally excavating the site as several holes were found nearby.
The Qubbet Al-Hawa necropolis is named after the domed tomb of a Muslim Sufi saint located on the crest of the hill. The area consists of a large collection of rock-hewn tombs of ancient Egyptian nobles from the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms who ruled Aswan during different ancient Egyptian dynasties.
The tombs’ walls are decorated with vivid paintings depicting scenes of their owners’ daily lives, as well as their different titles and biographies. They also feature hieroglyphic texts showing the noblemen’s journeys to Africa.
“This is not the first time we have seen such things happening,” an archaeologist in Aswan who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Since March, the necropolis had been subjected to looting, he said, and archaeologists at the site had inspected this during routine tours around the necropolis.
Permanent security guards from the tourism and antiquities police have not been in place since the 25 January Revolution, and the guards are not well-armed to resist armed gangs.
“We are asking the police to guard the necropolis permanently in order to protect a very distinguished archaeological site,” the archaeologist said.
In a telephone interview, Mohamed Hamada, consultant at the Ministry of State for Antiquities, told the Weekly that the Aswan inspectorate had reported the case to the police, but regretfully the criminals had escaped.
The ministry had sent a committee to inspect the tombs in order to report any losses, he added.
Investigations are now taking place, said Hamada, and more measures would be taken to protect such distinguished ancient Egyptian sites.
Mohamed Al-Beyali, former head of the ancient Egyptian sector at the ministry, said that the Qubbet Al-Hawa necropolis was a virgin site that had not been totally excavated and that its looting was a great loss to humanity.
The walls of the tombs bore scenes relating to the development of the lives of the nobles in ancient Egyptian history and their relations with Africa. The necropolis was usually fairly inaccessible, but it showed fine examples of hieroglyphic texts detailing the careers of their owners as well as scenes of daily life in the earlier periods, he said.
Many of the tombs are linked together as family members added their own chambers. The tombs are mostly quite deep in the hillside and therefore are very dark. They are arrayed on two levels, the lower one for the tombs of the Old Kingdom nobles and the higher ones for those from the Middle and New Kingdoms.
The tombs that are open to the public include the tombs of father and son Mekhu and Sabni, who were both governors during the long reign of the Sixth Dynasty Pharaoh Pepi II.
They also include the tomb of Sarenput, a local governor and overseer of the priesthood of Satet and Khnum under the 12th Dynasty Pharaoh Amenemhat II (1922-1878 BCE). This is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved tombs, and its walls still bear the remains of vivid colours.
The tomb of Harkhuf, governor of the south during the reign of Pharaoh Pepi II, is little decorated, except for remarkable hieroglyphic texts, while the tomb of Hekaib, also known as Pepinakht, overseer of foreign soldiers during the reign of Pharaoh Pepi II, has fine reliefs showing fighting bulls and hunting scenes.
The same is true of the tomb of Sarenput I, grandfather of Sarenput II and governor during the 12th Dynasty reign of Pharaoh Sesostris I (1965-1920 BCE).