Libmonster ID: U.S.-1371

INTERVIEW WITH EGYPTIAN ARCHAEOLOGIST ZAHI HAWASS

Keywords: Zahi Hawass, Ancient Egypt, archaeological discoveries, scientific activity, protection of ancient monuments

Recently, a well-known archaeologist and historian, former Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt Zahi Hawass, visited Moscow at the invitation of Russian philanthropist K. V. Malofeev, founder of the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation. One of the lectures - "Pyramids, mummies and Cleopatra: the latest archaeological finds in Egypt" - he gave to students and teachers of the Institute of Asian and African Countries of Moscow State University, after which he gave an interview to our magazine.

At one time, you entered the University of Alexandria at the Faculty of Law. How did you choose archaeology later? Why are you interested in this particular area of scientific knowledge?

- Yes, at first I studied law for a while, because I wanted to become a lawyer. But then I decided that studying law wasn't what I wanted to do, so I transferred to the Faculty of Humanities, the Department of Greek and Roman Archaeology. Although I didn't know what the future held for me in this field of knowledge.

In 1967, I graduated from the university and was appointed Inspector of the Egyptian Antiquities Service. Later, as fate would have it, I was sent to excavate an ancient city near Kom Abu-Billo in the Nile Delta. During the expedition, we discovered an ancient tomb. As I descended into it, I saw a beautiful statue. From that moment on, I fell in love with archaeology.

During your scientific career, you have made many important archaeological discoveries. Tell us more about the most unique, in your opinion, finds. What riddles did they help scientists solve later?

- All the discoveries, in my opinion, are important, but I would like to say something about the graves of the pyramid builders found separately. This was a truly sensational event, as there was no evidence as to who built the pyramids at Giza. There were even hypotheses that they were not ancient Egyptians. The discovery of the graves of the pyramid builders, who by many signs were precisely the inhabitants of Ancient Egypt, put an end to this dispute.

Another significant discovery is the" valley of the golden mummies " in the Bahariya Oasis. 105 mummies were found in four tombs. They are well preserved, many were covered with gilding.

In 2007 - 2009, large-scale studies of some royal mummies of the XVIII dynasty, including Pharaoh Tutankhamun, were conducted. Subsequently, DNA tests were able to unravel the cause of his death. He died young, had malaria, and suffered from foot bone diseases. Earlier, some believed that Tutankhamun was poisoned.

Where can you see your archaeological finds now?

- All of them are first subjected to extensive scientific research, and then transferred to Egyptian museums; most of them - to the Cairo National Museum. There you can see one of my first finds - a statue of the dwarf Pernianhu. I am proud that it is kept in the main museum of the country.

Some of my findings are dedicated to popular science films and TV shows that were broadcast on such world-famous channels as the National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, and History Channel.

What films do you plan to prepare in the near future?

A new popular science film about the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti is being finalized. British archaeologist Nicholas Reeves, based on his research, puts forward the theory that

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her resting place is in the same tomb in the Valley of the Kings where Pharaoh Tutankhamun was buried. But I have big doubts about this, and directly in the film I am ready to argue with my colleague.

Another film-prepared by the editors of the National Geographic TV channel - will focus on the pyramids of Giza and the secrets they hold. I plan to make a documentary that will tell about the fate of ancient monuments in Egypt after the "January 25 revolution" of 2011. The fate of archaeological artifacts in a difficult period for the country is also devoted to my book, which is now being prepared for publication.

Probably, this is not your first book?

- Yes, the number of scientific and popular science books I have written on the archeology and history of Ancient Egypt is close to fifty; they are mostly published in English. I am preparing several books for publication in 2016 at once; some are co-authored with other archaeological scientists.

My colleagues and I are trying to keep up with the times, and we are increasingly using modern information technologies in our work. My e-book about the Cairo National Museum - "Inside the Egyptian Museum with Zahi Hawass" - has recently been available to users of tablet devices of the American company Apple. It contains a description of most of the exhibits stored there. For visitors to the museum, this is a kind of" personal guide", and for those who have not yet been there, it is a" visual virtual catalog " with extensive text material. However, back in 2010, a "paper version" was published in different languages of this kind of guide to the museum.

What are your work plans, and what new archaeological discoveries can we expect from you? How many other ancient secrets does Egypt hold?

- I plan to continue exploring the Pyramids of Giza, in particular the Great Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu). In 2016, we are going to send a radio-controlled robot inside it again. The study of the DNA of royal mummies will continue. The initial stage of this research can be found in my recently published books. For example, in the book "Scanning the Pharaohs. ST Imaging of the New Kindom Royal Mummies " (2015).

I am concerned that the burial site of Cleopatra VII, the last queen of ancient Egypt, and her lover Mark Antony has not yet been found. There is a version that the tomb is located in the ancient temple of Taposiris Magna, 50 km west of Alexandria. I think we are close to solving this mystery. By the way, not the last one. For example, in the Valley of the Kings, the burial site of the Pharaohs Thothmes II, Amenhotep I and Ramses VIII has not been found. I believe that today archaeologists have discovered no more than a third of the entire historical heritage of Ancient Egypt.

- It is known that you actively supported the restitution of archaeological valuables found earlier in Egypt and taken abroad by foreign archaeologists. How effective was your work, and how many actually stolen artifacts were "returned to their homeland" -?

- You know, I managed to return a considerable number of art objects that were kept in museums in different countries or were put up for sale at auctions. For this work, in 2006 I was included in the list of the 100 most influential people in the world according to the American magazine Time.

It wasn't an easy job. I had to write a lot of letters to the largest museums in the world, as well as to the UNESCO Department of Culture, proving that the artifacts were taken out of Egypt illegally.

Unfortunately, not everything was returned to Egypt. These are, for example, the bust of Nefertiti from the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum, the Dendera zodiac-part of the ceiling of the Hathor temple complex-from the Louvre in Paris; the statue of Hemiun-the architect of the Great Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu) in Giza, which is kept in the Roemer and Peliceus Museum-in Hildesheim, Germany; the statue of Ankhaf - the builder of the pyramid Khafren is from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

In connection with the events of recent years in a number of Arab countries, the issue of strengthening the protection of ancient monuments has become acute. What is being done in this direction in Egypt?

- The destruction of ancient monuments and shrines, the sale of artifacts on the " black market "for the purchase of weapons by religious fanatics of the" Islamic State " (IS) in Iraq and Syria is a real disaster not only for these countries, but for the whole world, because it is our common cultural heritage.

Since the beginning of the 2011 riots in Egyptian cities, despite the military's attempts to protect the country's historical wealth, many valuables have been stolen from our museums. I still remember one day in January 2011 when I saw the building of the National Democratic Party of Egypt on fire from the window of my apartment. I was afraid that the Cairo Museum might also be set on fire.

Fortunately, this did not happen. And today, most of the stolen artifacts were returned. I must say that Egypt is now taking the issue of protecting ancient monuments very seriously.

Egypt is one of the countries where the so-called international "archaeological tourism" has been developed. And you will participate-

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take part in a special project - "Archaeological Paths", addressing tourists with the statement: "Egypt is safe!". Are you really sure about this?

- Tourism is an important tool for the economy of our Egypt. The tourist flow, despite the intensification of radical Islamism in the region, does not weaken. There is a growing interest in archaeological sites. And this is very important, because with the money of these tourists, we can restore our monuments of art and culture. I really try to take my best part in the development of this branch of tourism and work closely with the Egyptian Ministries of Tourism and Foreign Affairs on these issues.

Recently, the international company "On the Paths of the Archaeologist" offered me to cooperate with it and from time to time give lectures on the history of Ancient Egypt for foreign tourists - I, of course, agreed. In 2014, this project was attended mainly by guests from America, as well as a number of European countries. I was genuinely surprised and delighted that about 700 tourists specially came to Egypt to listen to my lectures and then get acquainted with the archaeological and cultural heritage of the country.

I regret that there are few Russians who are interested in this type of tourism... Most of them go to Egypt just to relax by the sea.

Tell us about the project of the Great Egyptian (Archaeological) Museum in Giza. Is its construction completed, and when is it going to open? Will it just be an exhibition of exhibits or a research center?

- Initially, it was assumed that Giza would have the largest archaeological museum in the world, of course, with a large research center in its composition. We specially sent the relics from the tomb of Tutankhamun to exhibitions in the United States, and with some of the money raised for this - about $ 140 million-we built laboratories, restoration workshops and storage facilities for the art objects of the future museum. The main amount for the construction of the building - about $300 million-was received as a loan from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

I did everything in my power to open the museum in 2015, but the events that took place in the country after 2011, as mentioned above, delayed the implementation of the project. And now, alas, I doubt that we will be able to open a museum even in 10 years...

Now, in order to implement this major project, about $700 million is already required. I take this opportunity to address people all over the world through your magazine: we need your voluntary donations. We are ready to capture the name of each donor, regardless of the amount they have contributed, on the walls of the future museum. I think that all the people of the Earth know that the Egyptian civilization belongs not only to Egypt. Yes, we are its guardians, but there is no country that does not feel its influence on its own civilizational development in one way or another. And the interest in Ancient Egypt, whose achievements in culture, art and urban planning still amaze the imagination of millions of people around the world, will never run out. Anyone who comes to us as a tourist or researcher can get acquainted with it.

You came to us in Moscow with an interesting lecture program. Are you planning to visit other cities in Russia? Have you ever been to our country before?

- I came to Russia in 2009 to participate in an international scientific conference on Egyptology. Unfortunately, at that time my acquaintance with the country was rather superficial.

This time I visited a number of historical sites in the Russian capital, as well as the Moscow Kremlin museums and the Tretyakov Gallery. Now I can say that I have become more familiar with Russia and the Russians. It's a great country, and I've come to love it.

I haven't been to other cities yet, but in 2016 I'm going to go to St. Petersburg, which I've heard a lot about. And which, as I know, also belongs to the world centers of historical science.

"One last thing. A question that will surely make you smile. You are called the "king of the Pharaohs", "king of the pyramids" and even the Egyptian Indiana Jones. And in many photos, you are wearing a cowboy hat like this fictional hero from American movies. How justified is this comparison, and why, in your opinion, do you have a fixed image of this hero?

- You know, in different countries they call me differently. For example, the Italians called me "the last pharaoh". In some places they say that I am the " Pharaoh of Egypt." All these nicknames only endear me, because - as I understand it-people are interested in my books, films, research. All this gives me strength, and I feel that I still have a lot to do in archaeology.

Indiana Jones was a hero of adventure films, a treasure hunter. And I'm also looking for treasures... treasures of ancient Egypt-so this comparison is completely justified. I didn't think the cowboy hat I wore on the dig site would become so popular.

The conversation was conducted in Arabic by K. V. MESHCHERINA, editor of the magazine "Asia and Africa Today"


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