Egyptian Police Stop Modern Burials Near Pyramid

pyramid
Wikimedia Commons

Egyptian police have stopped an attempt to expand a modern graveyard right next to the ancient site of Dahshur, home of the Bent Pyramid, Ahram Online reports.

The pyramid had already been damaged earlier this year by the encroaching cemetery. Authorities stopped construction at that time, but now new incursions are threatening the site. In the more recent incident, police arrested one man and are looking for three more.

The pyramid, which reopened to the public in 2009 after many years of being closed, is believed to have been built by the Pharaoh Sneferu. It gets its name from the fact that its upper portion slants at a different angle from the lower portion. Egyptologists believe that as the structure was being built, engineers changed their design out of fear that it would collapse. As a result, the bottom part of the pyramid rises up at a 55º angle, then transitions to 43º as it nears the top.

Dahshur is a royal necropolis and several other pyramids and tombs are in the area.

This is just one of a series of incidents that are threatening Egypt’s priceless ancient heritage. Continuing political chaos and a lack of sufficient security are making archaeological sites easy prey for “developers” and looters. Last month an entire museum was looted. Most artifacts were stolen. Those that couldn’t be moved were destroyed, with vandals smashing statues and burning mummies. The economic crisis in Egypt is fueling much of the theft, and a rising Islamist movement that has no respect for pre-Islamic cultures is creating an atmosphere of callousness.

Egypt’s Ancient Heritage In Peril As Turmoil Continues

Egypt
Mallawi Museum One of the stolen artifacts.

The political instability in Egypt is taking a heavy toll on the country’s ancient heritage.

Thieves have taken advantage of the chaotic situation to steal artifacts to sell on the illegal antiquities market, while vandals have been satisfied with simply destroying them.

Both groups recently struck at a museum in Mallawi, about 190 miles south of Cairo. When supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi held a protest in the museum’s garden, thieves took advantage of the police being distracted to break in and steal more than a thousand artifacts. When vandals saw the museum was open and unguarded, they rushed in and smashed up the place.

National Geographic has published some sobering pictures of the destruction. The museum has put up a Facebook page detailing what has been stolen in the hope that it will make it harder for the thieves to sell the artifacts.

Looting has been reported at numerous museums and archaeological sites around the country. Instability and lack of income from tourism also means many archaeological sites are suffering from neglect. There may be a political motivation for some of the thefts. Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram quotes Mokhtar Al-Kasabani, professor of Islamic Archaeology at Cairo University, as saying the thefts are to raise money for the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya. The Muslim Brotherhood is Morsi’s party, and Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya (Islamic Group) was allied with him when he was in power.

Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya claimed responsibility for a 1997 terrorist attack in Luxor that killed 62 people, mostly tourists. So it appears fundamentalists are destroying Egypt’s past in order to raise money to endanger its future.

State Department Strengthens Warning Against Travel To Egypt

Obama Condemns Violence in Egypt

The State Department strengthened the intensity of its warning against travel to Egypt on Thursday. Overriding an earlier warning issued on July 3, the new alert advises U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Egypt at this time and asks Americans currently in the country to leave.

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Egypt and U.S. citizens living in Egypt to depart at this time because of the continuing political and social unrest. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on July 3, 2013.

The announcement followed a new series of protests in Cairo, which have caused more than 500 deaths at this writing.

For the full warning, visit the State Department’s website.

Why Do We Give Countries Different Names?

Endonym map of country names
EndonymMap.com

You booked a trip to Germany, so why does your passport stamp say Deutschland? Your name didn’t change from John to Johann, so why should the country’s name change? If you’ve ever wondered why countries go by different names in different languages, you can check out the Endonym map, that displays each country by their own name. Endonyms are a country’s name within its own borders (see: United States of America, Detschland, Estados Unidos Mexicanos), while exonyms are what it’s known by in other languages (a.k.a. Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika, Germany, Mexico). Many of them are similar-sounding cognates that are easier to say or spell in our native language (Brazil/Brasil or Italy/Italia), or some are descriptive and sometimes derogatory names for a place (see this literal Chinese translated map of Europe, like Italy/Meaning Big Profit).

Can you figure out some of the more difficult English exonyms with a hint?Elláda: You might recognize this name better from its ancient pronunciation: Hellas, named for a famously beautiful resident.

Hrvatska: Such a combination of consonants might be familiar from one of their famous islands: Hvar.

Miṣr: You’ll read this name now in Arabic, not hieroglyphics.

Suomi: The more commonly known name for this country was found on rune stones in nearby Sweden.

Zhōngguó: Our name derives from Persian and Sanskrit, and now also describes a certain kind of porcelain dishes.

*Answers: Greece, Croatia, Egypt, Finland, China

Chinese Tourist Vandalizes Egyptian Temple, Pisses Off China

Teenager Caught Defacing Ancient Egyptian Temple A young tourist who scrawled his name on the almost 3,500-year-old Luxor Temple in Egypt has drawn the ire not of Egypt but his home country of China.

The graffiti, which translates roughly as “Ding Jinhao wuz here,” was etched onto the the Luxor’s wall engravings with a rock. A photo of the tag was taken by a different tourist and posted on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging site.

The photo has caused outrage in China, where only last week Chinese visitors to foreign countries received an official admonition to straighten up and fly right. There is much hand-wringing in China over the image of the country abroad and the graffiti has been highlighted as an example of why China has such a poor reputation.

The rapid spread of the photo has prompted what is called in China a renrou suosou - a “human flesh search,” in which Chinese Internet users attempt to expose individuals to public humiliation for online content perceived as offensive. The search has prompted other individuals named Ding Jinhao to publicly declare or prove they have never been to Egypt in order to avoid repercussions.

Meanwhile, the real Ding Jinhao has reportedly been outed as a 15-year-old student in Nanjing, whose parents have apologized on his behalf, saying he was young at the time and just copying what he had seen done elsewhere.

Interestingly, the photographer’s tour guide in Egypt allegedly saw no reason to blame the boy, saying it was the tour guide’s responsibility to prevent vandalism.