Zahi Hawass and the Future of Ancient Egypt
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 10th December, 2009
Egypt’s Head of Antiquities, Dr Zahi Hawass, is a man on a mission: to try to persuade some of the world’s leading museums to repatriate several of the greatest treasures of ancient Egypt — starting with the bust of Nefertiti, from Berlin. A man who courts publicity by his style — he is not known as the Indiana Jones of Egyptology for nothing — he has ensured plentiful coverage for his quest during the past few days in London, as one of the artefacts he is after is the Rosetta Stone, the tablet seized by the Napoleonic French before being bagged by the British, and which provided the key to understanding hieroglyphics. The Stone is in the British Museum and that august institution has just as strong an intention of hanging on to it as it does to the Parthenon (‘Elgin’) Marbles. However, that has not dissuaded the tenacious Dr Hawass from running his campaign to get his six target objects back to Egypt in time for the opening of the Egyptian Grand Museum in about five years’ time.
This evening, Dr Hawass was the guest speaker at a sell-out dinner of the Political and Economic Circle of the National Liberal Club in London, where he also enlightened us with some of the fruits of his research over the past 18 months using DNA testing on mummies in the Valley of the Kings (quite a departure for someone whose earlier career was based almost entirely in and around the pyramids of Giza). Two separate laboratories in Cairo worked on the relevant material, some of it from the mummy of King Tutankhamun; Dr Hawass hopes that we may therefore not only learn who King Tut’s father was, but also solve the mystery of what the young monarch died from. An institute in the United States is currently doing extra research on the material, but Dr Hawass hopes to be in a position very shortly to announce the dramatic findings at a press conference in the Valley of the Kings. In the meantime, he is promoting a couple of new books, including a beautiful coffee table tome on some of the treasures of the current Egyptian Museum, with magnificent pictures by Sandro Vannini (Heritage World Press, £35).