Endangered archaeology of the Kharga Oasis, Egypt
Department of Eygptology-SAPE 218
American University in Cairo
The North Kharga Oasis Survey (American University in Cairo/University of Cambridge), directed by Salima Ikram and Corinna Rossi, has been locating, mapping and planning archaeological sites in the northern part of Kharga Oasis in Egypt?s Western Desert since 2001. This entire area, ad), including forts, temples, settlement sites and tombs, in addition to prehistoric and Pharaonic remains.measuring some 400 or so square kilometres, is largely undocumented and contains several standing remains of the Roman period (fourth to fifth centuries
One of the reasons for this survey is that these sites have been subject to vandalism and attack by antiquities thieves, robbers in search of gold, and tourists removing objects as souvenirs. Thus far, most of the area has qanats).been preliminarily documented and a final season of work is planned in 2005. One of the most spectacular sites that the project has documented is the site of Umm el Dabadib, a site 70 km inside the deep desert, consisting of a fort, settlements, cemeteries, industrial areas and underground aqueducts (
During a site visit in November 2004 to the settlement of Umm el c. second/third century ad multi-phased mud-brick temple that had stood about 13 m high. The temple had been plastered and painted with various motifs, including vines, Egyptian gods and hieroglyphic inscriptions. Only one wall now remains standing, with the remainder being scraped away to below foundation level in the looter?s quest for buried treasure. A further investigation carried out by both directors revealed that the damage had not been limited to the temple. A two-storey mud-brick watchtower had been reduced to rubble, while part of the fortified settlement that bordered the fort, chunks of the eastern settlement, and several tombs in Cemetery F had all been attacked by a loader. The two settlements that were vandalized consisted of large mud-brick rooms, roofed by vaults, with, in the case of the eastern settlement, industrial areas on the roof. The tombs that were destroyed had been partially dug into the desert tafla with vaulted mud-brick structures constructed over these foundations. Several pottery vessels, painted and plain, as well as fragments of mummies and skeletons were found littering the area.Dabadib, one of the project directors discovered that a front-loader had been at work, and virtually destroyed the
The site had earlier been vandalized in 1995, when parts of the church were bulldozed by thieves in search of buried treasure that they thought lay under the altar. Presumably a similar quest fuelled the 2004 attack. The site is deep in the desert and difficult to patrol with any regularity without access to 4x4 vehicles, and thus is more easily prey to vandalism.
Zahi Hawass, Director General of Antiquities, is hoping to improve the situation in the oasis by providing additional guards with motorcycles in order to protect this and other sites that are similarly in danger. It is hoped that this will also discourage antiquities? thieves, as well as unscrupulous tourists who illegally collect artefacts from the more remote desert sites in Egypt.�
||The temple at Umm el Dabadib as it was in February 2004 ...
? and the destruction discovered in November 2004.