Just Ancient Egypt

John B

Ad Honorem
Mar 2016
3,829
Canada
The modern scholar Okasha El Daly combines Egyptology with Arabic studies. Consequently, he provides a wealth of new information, translating books from the Islamic Empire which themselves are translations of Greek & Egyptian papyri. His book "Egyptology: The Missing Millenium" has a chapter on "Treasure Hunting."

"In Ancient Egypt, with its vast treasure of great antiquity, treasure hunting became a full-time profession and at times was even under state patronage. The tradition of exploiting ancient treasure certainly goes back to pharaonic Egypt. This is seen in the 'Admonition of Ipuwer' who lametned that even the royal treasury had been completely robbed during the First Intermediate Period (Parkinson 1997: 166ff)

Records of police investigations into tomb robbery in the New Kingdom show the spread of the practice (Breasted 1927 r:246ff). At the end of the New Kingdom treasure hunting was officially instigated and sanctioned to help the ailing economy (Reeves and Wilkinson 1996:204f). The same process was also recorded during the Ptolemaic period. According to Strabo (Geography 17.1.8-9), a Ptolemaic king stole the gold coffin from the tomb of Alexander the Great and replaced it with one made from alabaster or glass."

He goes on to describe how during the Islamic Empire, tomb robbing became a major, state-controlled enterprise. They were digging everywhere and the successes were so fabulous, the many failures & deaths were ignored. Sultans and even minor adminstrators accumulated vast amounts wealth, decorating their homes with artifacts that didn't have immediate value.

"The supervision of treasure hunters which started under Ibn Tulun developed, under the Fatimids, into a guild with its head known as Naqeeb Al-Majtalibeen 'Chairman of the Guild'. Al-Maqrizi (It'az 2:88) regarded the death of one such chairman as an event important enough to be noted in his historical annals, in this case a man named Abu Al-Hassan Ali Ibn Ibrahimi Al-Nursi (died 1010 CE)."

"Guild of Tomb Robbers'" - sounds like an Indiana Jones title.

We're lucky modern archeologists found anything .... and there's STILL stuff in tombs? After 1000's of yrs of looting? The sheer volume is unimaginable.
It still seems there is a strong economic drive to network material for money. Especially with the high level of poverty. Even using bulldozers to clear areas of material. With even a broken coffin face going for thousands of dollars.

Now that they have decided to take a comprehensive inventory of all storage sites and magazines who knows what wull show up what is missing. Or even if the can determine if anything is missing. I know of some storage sites that have been locked since the 50s or earlier. This is going to get rather interesting. Materials from these locations has shown up on the markets.

There is also strong evidence that some pharaohs repurposed their predecessors burial equipment.
 
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
It does seem that the idea of collecting or selling cultural heritage items is seen by more people as repugnant. Even now what is a legal sale of an item these days cfeates backlash in some areas. Maybe this will get better. Killing the market to some extent.
Egypt is indeed a tragic case, with so much of its heritage plundered. I doubt they will ever recover more tan a fraction of the stolen items.

A visit to the Victorian and Albert museum in London was a real eye opener in terms of stolen cultural items. An ironic thing is the so-called Elgin marbles, stolen from Greece. They are in far better condition than the remaining figures in Greece;. where pollution has almost destroyed them.(I've seen them) However ,the Greeks have built an excellent facility to house and protect the remaining marbles. AND they want their stolen marbles returned. I say stolen because the Greeks claim the person or persons who sold the marbles did not have the authority to do so.

The Brits maintain what I think is meant to be a dignified silence. Instead it across to me as furtive.


I once visited the Forbidden City in Beijing. An mazing experience. I was surprised to find virtually no furniture. The only remnant I saw, apart from some clothing, was a massive piece of closely carved jade. It must have weighed several tons. The explanation I was given by the Chinese guide was that it was too big to lift, so was left when the foreign powers looted the forbidden city. I don't know exactly exactly when, or even if it was on one occasion, or over an extended period.

Attitudes towards stolen cultural items are changing , to a point; EG The British museum graciously returned some aboriginal skulls which had been exhibits. Likely that the owners of the skulls had ben murdered, and the heads boiled to remove the flesh. The skulls were respectfully buried by indigenous people in Australia.--But ask the Brits for the Elgin Marbles------
 

John B

Ad Honorem
Mar 2016
3,829
Canada
Egypt is indeed a tragic case, with so much of its heritage plundered. I doubt they will ever recover more tan a fraction of the stolen items.

A visit to the Victorian and Albert museum in London was a real eye opener in terms of stolen cultural items. An ironic thing is the so-called Elgin marbles, stolen from Greece. They are in far better condition than the remaining figures in Greece;. where pollution has almost destroyed them.(I've seen them) However ,the Greeks have built an excellent facility to house and protect the remaining marbles. AND they want their stolen marbles returned. I say stolen because the Greeks claim the person or persons who sold the marbles did not have the authority to do so.

The Brits maintain what I think is meant to be a dignified silence. Instead it across to me as furtive.


I once visited the Forbidden City in Beijing. An mazing experience. I was surprised to find virtually no furniture. The only remnant I saw, apart from some clothing, was a massive piece of closely carved jade. It must have weighed several tons. The explanation I was given by the Chinese guide was that it was too big to lift, so was left when the foreign powers looted the forbidden city. I don't know exactly exactly when, or even if it was on one occasion, or over an extended period.

Attitudes towards stolen cultural items are changing , to a point; EG The British museum graciously returned some aboriginal skulls which had been exhibits. Likely that the owners of the skulls had ben murdered, and the heads boiled to remove the flesh. The skulls were respectfully buried by indigenous people in Australia.--But ask the Brits for the Elgin Marbles------
At least here now the display of remains of first nation remains is seen as abhorrent as well as looting of cultural items. The advantage in this case is the peoples of these cultures to some point still exist. Therefore there is a strong moral argument for repatriation of many items.

As for many items is the concern the items would not survive repatriations. Heritage material can not even be protected in their own nations. The depredations of ISIS and the Taliban can be an example here. African nations are asking for repatriation and do not have the safe infrastructure to hold items. Political stability is an issue. Even the Egyptian Museum was attacked during the Arab Spring.

I myself take no value in owning ancient items. Putting on my living room shelf or locked away as an investment is an anathema. No one sees it, learns from it, or appreciates it. It looses context an purpose. Its only purpose reduced to that of a status symbol or commodity in a small market. Slowly the social stigma of holding or sale of these items may take hold and result in many disposition to institutions of this privately held material.
 
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
At least here now the display of remains of first nation remains is seen as abhorrent as well as looting of cultural items. The advantage in this case is the peoples of these cultures to some point still exist. Therefore there is a strong moral argument for repatriation of many items.

As for many items is the concern the items would not survive repatriations. Heritage material can not even be protected in their own nations. The depredations of ISIS and the Taliban can be an example here. African nations are asking for repatriation and do not have the safe infrastructure to hold items. Political stability is an issue. Even the Egyptian Museum was attacked during the Arab Spring.

I myself take no value in owning ancient items. Putting on my living room shelf or locked away as an investment is an anathema. No one sees it, learns from it, or appreciates it. It looses context an purpose. Its only purpose reduced to that of a status symbol or commodity in a small market. Slowly the social stigma of holding or sale of these items may take hold and result in many disposition to institutions of this privately held material.

We're' " on the same page'" I think:

My house is full of dust collectors of various kinds; Eg recent pottery and glass by Australian artists, bought from the artists, but never more than a couple of hundred dollars,. Recently made Chinese objects and a few older pieces of furniture.. I also like Chinese blue and white pottery. Bought heaps over they years in Hong Kong,* Rarely more than about $20. I think the pieces I have are beautiful, don't care if they have no monetary value. I also have far too many of my own paintings, in acrylic. To be frank, they're' pretty bad, but I like them.

Could not in conscience have an old culturally sensitive or valuable object in my possession..


* I went to a pottery in Foshan, which i snot far from Hong Kong.. They have been making the same blue and white wares for centuries. I honestly could not tell the difference between an antique and one made yesterday.
 

John B

Ad Honorem
Mar 2016
3,829
Canada
We're' " on the same page'" I think:

My house is full of dust collectors of various kinds; Eg recent pottery and glass by Australian artists, bought from the artists, but never more than a couple of hundred dollars,. Recently made Chinese objects and a few older pieces of furniture.. I also like Chinese blue and white pottery. Bought heaps over they years in Hong Kong,* Rarely more than about $20. I think the pieces I have are beautiful, don't care if they have no monetary value. I also have far too many of my own paintings, in acrylic. To be frank, they're' pretty bad, but I like them.

Could not in conscience have an old culturally sensitive or valuable object in my possession..


* I went to a pottery in Foshan, which i snot far from Hong Kong.. They have been making the same blue and white wares for centuries. I honestly could not tell the difference between an antique and one made yesterday.
The only thing I collect is coins.

I think collecting did go a bit to far when it was legal and the reason to retain some items is a bit odd. The strangest being mummies. Collecting dead humans is odd but also mummy parts. Right up there with shrunken heads. Mummies these days are not unwrapped but treated with care. I think it will get better as more people find cultural theft as an evil. At Egyptian antiquities are not really a cultural Item but part of mankind's heritage they should be treated the same. As China still exists in language and culture there is a more direct connection.
 
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