On Saturday 20 February, the archaeological site at Deir el-Bersha was attacked, one guard was killed and two others injured. This is the price ordinary Egyptians pay for protecting their heritage.

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Details here: http://art-crime.blogspot.it/2016/02/one-killed-one-injured-at.html
Since that was posted, a second guard has died of his injuries. The dead guard mentioned here was a long-term employee of the Belgian Mission, who are hoping to crowd-fund support for his family: http://art-crime.blogspot.it/2016/02/sentry-guard-killed-at-deir-el-bersha.html. The government has also offered compensation of EGP10,000 – http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/9/40/188172/Heritage/Ancient-Egypt/Compensation-for-employees-killed,-injured-at–Egy.aspx.

The site of Deir el-Bersha in Middle Egypt has been known since ancient times for its limestone quarries, and for the tombs of its Middle Kingdom nomarchs. The site’s necropolis is located at the entrance of Wadi Deir el-Nakhla, in a remote area east of the Nile that is not easy to get to: see a video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljxed9Rkh1Y . It’s not a place people visit unless they intend to. Given the fragility of the site and previous issues of looting, the area is closed to the general public and open only with special authorisation. The tombs at Deir el-Bersha were attacked only in May last year: precious, valuable paintings were hacked from the walls and the site magazines raided, as reported by Monica Hanna here: https://twitter.com/monznomad/status/597860115555942400. The tomb of the nomarch Djehutihotep with its 12th Dynasty wall-paintings has long been a target.

So the danger was known. There was some security there, but leaving unarmed ghaffirs to defend valuable antiquities against armed thugs is asking too much. They are not paid enough to risk their lives, even for the site they love. We all know that the police have been reluctant to assist in the guarding of sites any time since 2011, and we also know the sheer volume of looting that has followed that neglect, described by Sarah Parcak here http://www.livescience.com/53752-egypt-looting-satellite-archaeology.html. The only thing that will save Egypt is the police discovering a sense of duty to the nation sometime before everything disappears . . .

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The ancient world: a place that gets bigger, more exciting and more complex by the day

The past is never dead – it isn’t even past. Nor is it just about history, or even just about people. The ancient world has been liberated from a worldview based on Greece and Rome, and – ever edgier – from the written word. Today, it’s about the past in all its glorious diversity, discovered through history, certainly, but also through ancient languages, archaeology, palaeontology, genetics, anthropology, archaeobiology, climatology . . .

It’s about Homo naledi in South Africa, an argument about humanity; the Natufian culture making the first bread from wild grain about 12,500BC in the Levant, and argument about agriculture and society; the latest news on population movements from the Pontic Steppe to Scandinavia, an argument about roots and origins; how the bluestones got to Stonehenge, a rather geological argument . . . let’s go fossick. I hope it’s going to be fun.

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