Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Prospectors on the Trail of Pharaohs' Gold

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Prospectors on the Trail of Pharaohs' Gold

Article excerpt

No one had thought to prospect for gold in Egypt because there was no tradition of mining there in recent years. Until Sami Raghy came along.

Seven years ago, the experienced Egyptian geologist happened to visit a government office in Cairo, where he was intrigued by a wall hanging. It turned out to be a copy of a 3,200-year-old map showing gold-mine tunnels that is believed to have been sketched by King Seti I.

Using the map as his guide, Mr. Raghy, who has inevitably been dubbed Egypt's Indiana Jones, is now tracing the mines that once supplied gold for pharaonic treasures, including those of the boy- king Tutankhamen. The venture has turned into a $60-million mining operation - one that could put Egypt among the 10 top gold- producing countries in the world, say directors of Raghy's company.

The operation has converged on Sukari, 500 miles south of Cairo in Egypt's eastern desert, where ancient grinding stones and other rudimentary mining equipment still litter the low rugged hills overlooking the Red Sea.

"It's pretty quiet out here," says site manager Mike Kriewaldt, an Australian geologist, who mans the camp with 29 Egyptian workers. "It's desert, but it's beautiful. We're five miles from the nearest bitumen road. You see the odd camel. There are so few trees that every one has a name."

He and others are confident they've found what they were looking for. "The map was a proper geological survey," Mr. Kriewaldt says. "The big thing was to work out exactly which part of Egypt it was referring to. We believe we've found the spot."

In ancient times, the pharaohs sent out teams on camel trains to open mines as far south as Kush, the pharaonic name for Ethiopia.

King Seti, who was the father of Pharaoh Ramses II, a prolific builder who became one of the most celebrated pharaohs, ruled Egypt from 1290 to 1279 BC. Although this is about 40 years after the death of Tutankhamen, Raghy has no doubt the mines in the area he is now working also supplied the gold for Tutankhamen's treasures. …

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