First of its kind
The United Nations cultural agency has announced it will help Egypt build an innovative underwater museum in the Bay of Alexandria on the site of archaeological remains thousands of years old. The idea for a museum, located by Cleopatra’s Palace and the mythical 3rd century BC Alexandria Lighthouse, also known as the Pharos, comes amid the growing recognition of the importance of underwater cultural heritage. The first-of-its kind museum will be partly above water and partly submerged where visitors will be able to see archaeological artefacts on the seabed.
UNESCO have also produced a documentary film focusing on its Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage and the importance of saving submerged cultural property, increasingly vulnerable to pillaging with the development of more sophisticated and affordable diving equipment.
The Brooklyn Museum, which recently announced its prized collection of stone sculptures from ancient Egypt was cluttered with fakes, is planning an exhibit with these pieces to raise awareness of forgeries in the world’s art collections. “We really have to face the fact that mistakes are made in museums just as they are made anywhere else,” Edna Russmann, curator of the museum’s Egyptian, classical, and ancient Middle Eastern art, said this week. “Museums are in the habit of hiding these things away.” The exhibit, “Unearthing the Truth: Egypt’s Pagan and Coptic Sculpture,” is set to open next February.
Skulls found in Britain
Two ancient Egyptian skulls unearthed in a yard in England have been returned to their native country. And the mystery of how they got from the hot sands of Egypt to the rainy north of England has been solved, investigators said.
The first skull was discovered by homeowner Matthew McClelland as he did some gardening at his home in the northern city of Manchester a year ago. He called authorities, and they discovered a second skull. An analysis by an Oxford University expert confirmed the skulls were a little more than 2,000 years old.
Investigators learned they had been buried in the yard by Carl Bracey, a doctor who sold the house to McClelland two years before the skulls were discovered. Bracey said he bought the skulls as a teenager on a family trip to Egypt. But he buried them years later when his wife said she didn##t want them around any longer. The skulls were repatriated to Egypt a few weeks ago. Manchester police said that no criminal charges are expected.
Experts believe tomb raiders initially unearthed the artifacts.
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions has held a two-day conference for the Arabic-speaking region on “The Role of Libraries in Freedom of Expression, Tolerance, and Access to Information” at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The conference, aimed at library and information professionals and students as well as interested media and education professionals, was co-hosted by the Egyptian Library Association, the Arab Federation for Libraries and Information and IFLA’s Centre for Arabic Speaking Libraries and Information Institutions at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
Save the antiquities
Egypt and Ecuador have signed an agreement to protect antiquities and give back stolen items, Zahi Hawwas, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) recently said. The agreement, which is based on UNESCO’s 1972 Convention for the protection of the world’s cultural and natural heritage, stressed the prevention of illegal trade in documents and artefacts that are more than 50 years old, as well as rare animals, plants and metals. Egypt has signed similar agreements with 10 other countries. During the past few years, the Egyptian government has succeeded in bringing back more than 5,000 stolen antiquities.
Museum at the park
A visitor centre and a five-storey museum to house antiquities representing Cairo’s history from the Pharaonic era to the modern age is being established at al-Azhar Park, through the joint efforts of the SCA and the Agha Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). Some 1,500 pieces of antiquity have been selected from the stores of the Saladin Citadel, the Museum of Islamic Arts and the Coptic Museum to be displayed at the new museum.
Work is ongoing at the first museum on Egyptian desert sciences and prehistoric monuments, in Dakhla oasis of the New Valley in Egypt’s Western Desert. The museum is being built with the aid of the German government and, according to Hawwas, will be named after the late archaeologist Ahmed Fakhri whose work in the oases and the Western Desert was especially remarkable. Hawwas said the museum would offer guidelines for the monuments in the western desert, particularly those in such remote and difficult to protect locations as al-Gilf al-Kabir area. “A tourist expedition once destroyed rare wall paintings of the Old Kingdom Pharaoh Cheops. This is why we are posting guidelines for tourists in the new museum, to avoid destruction of such antiquities,” he said.
Switzerland is to return a “pharaoh’s eye” stolen 36 years ago from the statue of King Amenhotep III which was discovered in 1970 in his Luxor temple, Egypt’s Culture Minister Farouq Hosny announced. The eye is around 50 centimetres long and was stolen from the statue in 1972 when a fire broke out around the temple. “The thieves sold it to an American antiquities dealer who then auctioned it at Sotheby’s,” Hosny said. There, the eye was bought by a German antiquities dealer before ending up in a museum in Basel, Switzerland, which unconditionally accepted to return it to Egypt. Amenhotep III ruled Egypt for about 40 years during the 18th dynasty (1550-1292 BC), believed to be one of the most prosperous periods of ancient Egyptian history.