A Closer Look Egypt Checking Up on Teams Doing Archaeological Research

Article excerpt

After the "discovery" of the long-sought tomb of Alexander the Great fizzled away to fiction, Egypt has tightened its scrutiny of whom it allows to dig in the rich sands of its archaeological heritage.

The team that claimed to have found the conqueror's burial place in 1995 is among four groups suspended from further excavation work.

In recent months, Egypt's Higher Council for Antiquities has cracked down on its enforcement of regulations that previously were not uniformly applied, council chairman Ali Hassan said. The council has checked for irregularities among the 35 foreign teams and dozens of Egyptian groups licensed to excavate in Egypt, he said. "We have stopped only one foreign mission and three Egyptian missions," he said. "It is a sort of discipline, a sort of rearranging our house." Egyptian newspapers first reported the tightened scrutiny last fall, but what was involved did not become clear until late last month when reporters questioned Hassan during a public meeting. Review of the archaeological missions stems from Greek researcher Liana Souvaltzi's claim to have found the 2,300-year-old tomb of Alexander in Siwa Oasis, in Egypt's Western Desert. The announcement attracted international attention. But Egypt was embarrassed when experts later said tablets found by Souvaltzi's team were from several centuries after Alexander's death. Subsequently, five Greek-Roman specialists were asked to review Souvaltzi's work. "It was one of the worst reports I have ever seen," Hassan said. "They all said she has to be stopped. There can be no experiments in archaeology because you destroy. …

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