2.02.2011

Egyptian Museum in Cairo is a Battle Ground

I was very kindly asked to talk about the looting of the Museum and archaeological sites on the news, and had hoped that I would be summarising and trying clarify the events of the last few days. That the looting and damage was over. Unfortunately the chaos at the Egyptian Museum is far from over, and the Museum is no longer safe.

Yesterday the army was using the ground to triage 'troublemakers' (mostly journalists working for Al Jazeera). Today they seem to have funnelled some of the crowds of pro Mubarak protesters that have suddenly appeared towards the Museum. By early lunchtime London time I tweeted along the lines that it was looking like another battle spot, and by the time I'd finished lunch ... The anti Mubarak protesters were in charge of the grounds and in possession of four tanks the army had left behind in the grounds.

Now, towards late afternoon London time, the army and various factions seem to be battling it out. Protesters - I'm not sure anyone is quite sure which side they are on - are throwing Molotov cocktails and firebombs at the Museum (or in it's direction) and the army is using water cannons to stop them, and secure the safety of the Museum. The army is also sing tear gas on crowds.

Dr Zahi Hawass is not, according to my sources, at the Museum. Despite his statement yesterday that very few archaeological sites had been vandalised, reports are coming in from around the country that they have been.

I will try to do a proper non-Blackberry round-up post clarifying the damaged and correcting earlier mistakes (the damaged mummies were not Yuya and Tjuya) but I'd also like to mention the amazing work of Prof Mustafa Waziri of Luxor who many Egyptologists on the ground are crediting with work above and beyond the call of duty in terms of safeguarding the Valley of the Kings.

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