Conflict and resolution in Luxor
by Dr. Zahi Hawass
Posted: 22 Mar 2011 12:58 PM PDT
At 3:30 am on Saturday morning, March 19, 2011, men with guns broke into the storage magazine of the German expedition working at Kom el Hettan, the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III, famous for the colossi of Memnon. The expedition is headed by Hourig Sourouzian and Ranier Stadelmann. The criminals, who had covered their faces, tied up the site guards and were able to steal two statues. Some of the guards suffered injuries; one had to be taken to the hospital for a head wound.
The first stolen objects was the upper part of a statue of Sekhmet, the goddess of war and healing, measuring 59 cm; and the second object was the life-size head of an unidentified goddess, measuring 38 cm. The statue of Sekhmet had only been uncovered a few days prior to the theft. The police and army were quickly notified of the theft, and in less than 24 hours, the perpetrators were found, and the stolen statues were located and returned to the magazine. The theft was planned by a 33 year old sculptor in Luxor who makes replicas to sell to tourists. In his house, the authorities found many other stolen antiquities from other sites, including pottery of various shapes and sizes. The sculptor also admitted to making illegal excavations at several sites. In all, ten people were involved with the theft of the two statues. A sister of one of the criminals said that her 21 years old brother used to work for the German expedition and knew where the storage magazine was and knew what was kept inside.
I believe that this situation unfortunately shows one of the biggest mistakes made by the police; despite the fact that I appointed 8,000 well-educated site guards; the police refused to arm and train them to use weapons. Now thieves and criminals can attack the unarmed site guards because the police are not there to provide assistance.
I am happy that these two statues were found and returned to German expedition storage magazine. I am also pleased that twelve objects were returned to the Egyptian Museum Cairo late last week. I hope that all the missing objects will be returned soon.
I would like my fans to know that I am back to work in my private office; my assistants Rania, Beth, and Stephanie did a wonderful job of arranging my office and library so that I can start writing again. I am also preparing to travel to Boston, Massachusetts, USA, in mid-April for a television interview for a children’s program about my adventures in the tomb of Seti I. This program will be for the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. In June I will once again travel to the United States to give several lectures. Further information on these lectures will be posted soon
Dr. Zahi Hawass