Following the revolution in Egypt during the Arab Spring of 2011, the country has in many ways become destabilized. One negative effect of this situation has been the increased vulnerability of cultural heritage sites around the country (especially remote sites with little protection) to looters and vandals. The ancient Egyptian city of El Hibeh, in what is today the governorate of Beni Suef, has been particularly ravaged by looters.
From the time of the Revolution to the present, a UC Berkeley archaeological team has been monitoring the systematic destruction of this incredibly important ancient site, a site which they have been researching for over a decade. Led by Professor Carol Redmount, the team has been powerless in the face of a brazen looting effort that has been enabled by a lack of significant government support to guard and protect the site. During this time they have seen their previous field seasons’ excavated areas become nothing more than spoil heaps, nearly destroyed by looters pits.
Recently, an Egyptian committee from the Ministry of State Antiquities visited various sites in Egypt for inspection purposes. El Hibeh was included in the visit, and the committee was interested in how to improve security and assess extent of damage. However, with presidential elections near on the horizon, it is unclear how significant or timely government support for El Hibeh will be. The site’s future remains in a precarious balance, and if looting is allowed to continue, it will be lost forever.
Please check back to GHN Community for updates about El-Hibeh, and also make sure to join and participate in the Save El Hibeh Egypt Facebook group!
Photo credits: UC Berkeley Excavations at El Hibeh.