Most archeological treasures of Egypt still underground
By Mahmoud Saad Diab Egyptian journalist in Al-Ahram newspaper
Egypt is the land of history and civilizations. The country is cradle of many civilizations since millennia. The valuable and unique ancient relics, antiques and treasures are still well-preserved across Egypt. Egyptian and foreign archeologists have long been discovering many archeological sites including pyramids, mommies, cachets, statues, temples, and palaces to name a few. But experts believe that about 70% of Egyptian antiques still remained unearthed. Here I would like to incorporate some major archeological discoveries of Egypt.
The Asasyif cachet
On October 19, 2019, the world woke up to the breaking news: An Egyptian mission discovered a cachet of sealed coffins (Late Period) in Asasif, Luxor South of Egypt; it was the biggest discovery since more than 100 years. This cachet included some 30 coffins belong to the 22th Pharaonic dynasty. They were buried in a warehouse under the surface of the earth to protect them from stealing. There were two rows of coffins; the first row was consisted of 18 coffins and the second of 12 coffins for men and women, three of which were for young children, and they were buried there by senior priests to conserve them in a storehouse with a stone gate. And the age of that cachet is three thousand years.
The important point is that the all members of archaeological mission were from Egypt which means the Egyptian archaeological missions reached the highest levels of success, excellence and great archaeological maturity, and achieved a large number of discoveries over the past years since the decision was taken by the Ministry of Antiquities in November 2016.
The ministry decided to resume the work of the "Egyptian Archaeological Mission" after about five and a half years of hiatus since February 14, 2012.
Since 2016, the archeological missions have announced so many discoveries to all directions and humps in Luxor. The latest discovery was to bring out a group of colored coffins from the ground. A museum of Tutankhamun will be opened in London, with 150 pieces out of five thousand pieces in November, 2020. The monuments of King Tut, which were displayed in Paris and viewed by one million and 423 thousand people, will be put on display in London.
This discovery is reminiscent of the story of the first cachet discovered in Egypt in Al-Deir El-Bahri in 1881 AD. During the discovery, antiquities were transferred from the well for 48 continuous hours due to the difficulty of transportation that was primitive at that time, and another discovery is known as the cache of the priests of Amun in 1891 AD from where dozens of mummies of priests were found.
It wasn't the first time that an archaeological cachet was discovered by Egyptians. In 1881, the sheep herder Ahmed Abdel-Rasoul, who died in 1905, discovered the first cachet before Maspero Pasha, then head of the Antiquities Authority, arrested him after obtaining permission from Khedive Ismail and received a reward in the amount of about 500 Egyptian pounds, which is a very large amount at the time, as the Egyptian pound was equivalent to a pound of gold, because the brothers of Abdel-Rasoul sold some of the contents of the archaeological cachet to antiquities traders, which is an illegal method, and despite the high air temperature, the officials of the Egyptian Antiquities Authority They continued for 48 hours transferring antiquities from the crave with non-stop well, and that 200 men began transporting antiquities from the well until reaching the bank of the Nile River, and that was on July 11, 1882AD, in preparation for transporting it to Cairo, and waiting for a ship that specifically arrived to transport its large contents to the Bulaq Museum, where transportation and communications tools such as Nowadays.
The cachet of Al-Deir El-Bahari, discovered in 1881AD, was one of the most important major cases in the crimes of smuggling Egyptian antiquities outside the country throughout history, due to the magnitude of the cachet, and the archaeological treasures it contained, this story was published in the newspaper "Al-Ahram" in 1881AD, as it was one of the most important people involved in it in addition to Abd al-Rasoul's brothers, states consul and ambassadors, stressing that among the mummies that were smuggled, the mummy of Ramses II had succeeded in 2003 in the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities in its return to Egypt. In 1891 AD, Ahmed Abd al-Rasoul discovered the third cachet, where he was an exciting character who lived for 100 years, and was filmed in the Mummy movie by Shadi Abdel Salam, where he was able to find the coffins of the priests of Amun.
Cooperation with China
I met Professor Moustafa Al-Anany, the Egyptian minister of antiques, at the Egyptian embassy in Beijing last month. In a short interview about the discoveries which Egypt has achieved recently, the minister told me that it's the first time in the history of Egypt, about 40 Egyptian and foreign archaeological missions are working in various archaeological sites in different governorates of the country.
Egyptian archeologists decided to find out ancient Egyptian history with full force in the new season of excavations, which began weeks ago and will continue until the middle of 2020, he maintained.
Minister Al-Anany pointed out that with the launch of the winter excavation season this year in Luxor, the city of Thebes, which was the capital of the Pharaonic civilization, a total of 13 archaeological missions including three Egyptian, four American, and five Spanish started their work to find out the Pharaonic history of the ancient necropolis in the western part of Luxor.
Of them, the most prominent is the "Egyptian Archaeological Mission" headed by the well-known Egyptologist professor Zahi Hawas, the former Minister of Antiquities, who works in the western valley region known as the "Valley of the Apes", and in the Valley of the Kings, which includes dozens of tombs of the kings of ancient Egypt.
Another Egyptian mission headed by Moustafa Wazirey, Secretary-General of Antiquities Ministry, is working in Zaraa Abu Naja. His mission is also working in Al-Asasif region. And the Spanish archaeological mission is working in the Temple of King Thutmose III, and the American mission in the tomb of Prince "Amun Mays" and the cemetery number 63 in the Valley of the Kings.
The Asasyif Cemetery is known to have tombs from the dynasties (18-25-26), which cover the period of approximately from 525 to 1550 BC. Dozens of tombs belong to senior statesmen were found in this region throughout the ages.
Minister Al-Anany told me that he discussed with the Chinese officials ways to enhance bilateral archaeological cooperation, given that Egypt and China are the oldest human civilizations. The minister stressed the importance of enhancing ways of cooperation in the field of archaeological work, excavations, research projects, and museum affairs. Egypt is keen to benefit from China's pioneering experience in the sector of museum and archeological protection, he noted.
The minister said that with regard to relations with China, there are cooperation agreements between the two countries in the field of museums and antiquities, and that he recently discussed the issue of how China can host a temporary exhibition of antiquities with the director of the Museum of China and the Chinese ambassador to Cairo. The Egyptian minister assured that his ministry will provide all the necessary facilities to strengthen the bilateral relations. He pointed out that a memorandum of understanding was recently signed between the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and the Institute of Archeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in the field of archaeological work, in addition to a number of joint cooperation agreements in the field of museums and antiquities and their protection, the most important of which is the work to establish a Chinese Institute of Archeology in Egypt.
Minister Al-Anany emphasized the need for the capacity building and cadres working in the sector and pushing cultural, educational and archaeological activities in order to raise awareness protect and preserve cultural heritage. The first Sino-Egypt cooperation was held during the discovery of the Monto Temple area in Karnak of Luxor in November 2018. There is another request from Peking University to work in an archaeological site near Alexandria Governorate.
The Egyptian minster stressed that his country is looking forward to receiving more Chinese tourists, especially after the recent archaeological discoveries and the opening of many palaces, museums and archaeological areas after their restoration. He further mentioned that the recent discoveries are opened to visitors and creating a tourist boom in Egypt.
The Minister also referred to the project of restoring the Baron Empain Palace in Heliopolis district in Cairo. This project is expected to be opened soon. It will narrates the history of the Heliopolis neighborhood and Heliopolis, in addition to the ongoing work to develop the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, and the work of construction Grand Egyptian Museum, scheduled to open in the last quarter of 2020.