Good heavens, Sir Arthur Evans!
Evans-like dictatorial tyrant Zahi Hawass
“With an army of adoring international fans and close personal connections to Mubarak, the charges of having a poor scientific approach to archaeological work
and being too concerned with endless self- promotion had little impact – Hawass was perceived as virtually unassailable.”.
It’s quite a killer to healthy research when establishment tyrants such as Arthur Evans and Zahi Hawass become firmly set in place.
Emma Watts-Plumpkin writes of “Cairo: Egyptology in crisis (September 5, 2011):
After the dramatic departure of President Hosni Mubarak, attention swiftly turned to one of his high-profile ministers, the world- famous archaeologist Dr Zahi Hawass. No stranger to the glare of the media spotlight, Hawass quickly became tainted along with the crumbling regime and was engulfed by damaging charges of corruption and mismanagement. On Sunday 17 July, Hawass was abruptly sacked as the Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs in an overhaul of the country’s cabinet, and his controversial reign as one of the most powerful men in the archaeological world finally came to an end.
Hawass rose to prominence in the late 1980s as the General Director of Antiquities for the Giza Pyramids and became familiar to worldwide television audiences through documentaries investigating the mysteries of the pyramids. Infamous for his trademark hat and self-styling as the ‘Indiana Jones of Egypt’, Western-educated Hawass was elevated to the position of Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) on 1 January 2002. As Egypt’s foremost archaeologist, he was responsible for a staff of 30,000, control of all ongoing archaeological work, and the maintenance of a vast array of cultural riches including the Pyramids at Giza, the Valley of the Kings, and the Temple of Karnak in modern-day Luxor.
Formidable in asserting his new position, Hawass unveiled a raft of new measures. These included an aggressive nationwide museum-building programme, promising to improve the working conditions for local archaeologists, and implementing new site-management policies. Egyptologist Dr Melinda Hartwig of Georgia State University observes that Hawass was ‘adamant about publishing the results of archaeological fieldwork, even going as far as to shut down digs that were behind on their reports’. Hawass masterminded the planning and initial construction of the $550 million Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza – once completed in 2015, it will be the largest archaeological museum in the world, housing more than 100,000 artefacts and expecting around 5 million visitors per year.
It was through Hawass’s vociferous demands for the return of stolen cultural artefacts to Egypt that he first hit global headlines. Throughout his tenure at the SCA, he attempted to stamp out the relentless and highly damaging illegal trade in Egyptian cultural artefacts with some degree of success, presiding over the return of nearly 5,000 objects.
Hawass used his position as head of the SCA to embark on a decade-long campaign to demand the return of Egypt’s most prized objects from leading museums around the world. These included the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum in London, the Zodiac of Dendera at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, and the bust of Queen Nefertiti at the Neues Museum in Berlin. In the face of mounting media attention, Hawass applied increasing pressure for repatriation of key Egyptian objects from embattled world-renowned institutions, threatening embargoes on museum cooperation and excavation permits.
Dr Hartwig believes ‘Zahi Hawass was a force of nature and tireless in his pursuits. He spearheaded the return of the country’s patrimony and he clearly demonstrated a strong desire to study, protect and preserve the cultural heritage of Egypt’. The influence of the media has been crucial to Hawass’s enduring campaign, as he acknowledged when returning from a high-profile visit to London two years ago: ‘The English press was on my side in asking for the return of the stone’.
Last year Egypt, the largest country in the Arab world, received revenue of over $12 billion through tourism. Hawass has been the driving force behind the heavy promotion of two successful Tutankhamen exhibitions that continue to travel to major cities around the world, generating for Egypt an estimated final revenue of over $100 million.
Dr Peter Brand of the University of Memphis notes that Hawass’s crowning achievement was ‘to raise the profile of Egyptology around the world, especially in the participation of Egyptians in their own pharaonic heritage’. Hawass has been credited by government officials with boosting the number of visitors to the country through a relentless drive of self-promotion and headline-grabbing discoveries – he became he living embodiment of both Ancient Egypt and modern Egyptology.
Hawass always made sure he was the public face of Egyptology at every level – through the SCA he personally announced every new archaeological discovery, wrote countless bestselling books, and became ubiquitous on every history-themed cable channel in America.
Last year he took another step forward into show business by starring in his own exclusive warts-and-all reality series Chasing Mummies (tagline: ‘Pharaohs ruled then. He rules now’). With an army of adoring international fans and close personal connections to Mubarak, the charges of having a poor scientific approach to archaeological work and being too concerned with endless self- promotion had little impact – Hawass was perceived as virtually unassailable.
Winds of change
In one of Mubarak’s final official acts as president, Hawass was appointed as the Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs in a new department that absorbed the SCA. As such, he was charged with the care and protection of all Egyptian monuments and museums. Nearly two weeks later, at the height of the revolution, everything changed. Hundreds of archaeologists protested outside Hawass’s offices, furious at low wages, high levels of unemployment, and poor working conditions. It was also claimed that Hawass took all the credit for work by other archaeologists, causing further frustration. Egyptian archaeologist Nora Shalaby took part in the demonstration and witnessed the angry chants of ‘thief’ against Hawass: ‘He ran the antiquities sector exactly like Mubarak had run Egypt. He did not allow for people to challenge or criticise him and he monopolised our heritage for his own self-promotion.’ The protestors submitted a list of demands including the immediate prosecution of Hawass on charges of corruption and accountability for the looting of artefacts from the Cairo Museum during the revolution. With the dramatic changes unfolding in Egypt’s political landscape, Hawass was an obvious target for a new generation of disgruntled archaeologists.
Amid rising animosity, criticism was heaped on the alleged $200,000 annual salary Hawass received from National Geographic, particularly as he personally controlled all access to the ancient sites featured in the high-profile magazine reports. His close links with American companies who represent the Tutankhamen exhibitions and associated Egyptian-themed merchandise were heavily scrutinised, further tarnishing his increasingly beleaguered reputation. The subsequent launch of a widely ridiculed Zahi Hawass clothing line (‘for the man who values self-discovery, historicism and adventure’) only succeeded in fanning the flames of resentment, despite claims by Hawass that all profits would be donated to a children’s charity in Cairo.
Following the fallout from protests in Tahrir Square, Hawass resigned his cabinet position – only to be reappointed a month later. After just weeks of being back in the job, he was sentenced to a year in prison in a dispute over the preferential award of a gift shop retail contract at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. A criminal court recently acquitted Hawass of all charges against him. Despite attempts to distance himself from the political old-guard in Egypt, Hawass’s close links to the Mubarak regime continued to haunt him, and he was eventually sacked in July. Hawass does not plan to fade away quietly. He is already at work on his archaeological autobiography, and recently observed that he was ‘blessed to see first-hand how many Egyptians love and respect me’. ….
Matthias Schulz wrote colourfully about “Zahi Hawass. Egypt’s Avenger of the Pharaohs”: http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/zahi-hawass-egypt-s-avenger-of-the-pharaohs-a-697174.html
It is 5 a.m. and Zahi Hawass is sitting in his SUV, freshly showered, about to drive out to the Bahariya Oasis for a press appearance. The streets are still empty as Cairo shimmers in the rose-colored morning sun. Hawass must hurry to avoid the morning traffic.
He has already had a heart attack, and since then he only smokes water pipes. Referring to his driver, he says: “If he slows down I’ll fire him.” He likes to call his opponents “assholes.”
But no one here is troubled by his behavior. In fact, Hawass has a license to be loud and angry. He sets his own rules. As Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), he is the ultimate protector of all monuments in the country.
Some 30,000 people report to Hawass, whose organization is responsible for hundreds of dilapidated temples, gloomy tombs and treasure chambers fragrant with the scent of resin, once filled with gold jewelry and papyrus documents, stretching from the delta to the fourth Nile cataract.
Hawass can open them all.
Even looking like Indiana Jones in his jeans shirt and floppy, the master of the keys to Egypt’s antiquities has made umpteen TV appearances dangling from a rope in a grave shaft or bending over coffins, constantly repeating the same tried-and-true mantra: “mummy, sand, secret, miracle, exceptional.”
He is now “world-renowned,” at least in his own assessment of himself. The pyramid whisperer drinks $300 (€242) bottles of wine, and his best friend is actor Omar Sharif. Sometimes he puts on an expensive tuxedo and drives to a party at the villa of President Hosni Mubarak.
He even met with US President Barack Obama in June, and the two men stood at the base of the Pyramid of Cheops with their hands in their pockets, looking cool as could be.
“We were friends right off the bat,” says Hawass. “I told him that George Lucas came here to find out why my hat became more famous than Harrison Ford’s.” When he was shown the layout for his latest book, he had only one comment: “OK, but you have to print my name in bigger letters.”
“I’m not just famous in the United States, but also in Japan and, in fact, everywhere,” the narcissistic Egyptian explains without hesitation.
But Hawass is probably best known in his native Egypt, where he writes a column in the government daily al-Ahram. He often appears on television, chatting with official guests and ambassadors, or opening dance competitions in front of the Sphinx.
People like Hawass’ approach and his ability to converse on equal terms with the West. He has liberated Egypt from a posture of humility.
‘The Fighting Elephant of Egyptology’
He also happens to be a gifted speaker. He loves anecdotes, which usually revolve around him and contain minor untruths.
But this outgoing man isn’t overly interested in details. “Jalla, let’s go,” he calls out testily when his Jeep gets stuck in heavy traffic in Cairo’s urban canyons. His chauffeur has already run over several chickens.
But Hawass, who the German newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt dubbed the “fighting elephant of Egyptology,” has no patience for delays. He is a restless and driven man.
He says he would need thousands of arms and legs to wipe out all the disgrace that have been inflicted on his country. He is vexed by the daily grind of his fellow Egyptians, the filth, the poverty, the lack of organization and his agency’s poor technical facilities.
“We were once at the very top,” he says, referring to the time of the pharaohs. “Be proud of this heritage,” he tells young people.
Hawass often speaks of dignity, respect and honor. He believes that his nation was cheated, and that it is his mission to exact revenge for this treatment.
“Our heritage was stolen,” he says. “People raped the realm of the Nile in past centuries.” This makes him all the more determined to pursue one goal above all else: the return of cultural artifacts.
It is true that foreign rulers ransacked the region along the Nile for thousands of years. The Romans, for example, made off with entire obelisks.
Then came Napoleon. “Soldiers, 40 centuries look down upon you,” the Corsican called out to his men when they invaded the country in 1798. Entire ships filled with cultural artifacts were later shipped to the West, where they served as the basis for large, new museums.
Many of these treasures were purchased legally and for large sums of money. But Egypt was also filled with smugglers and tomb raiders who broke the law and stole the country’s golden heritage.
Hawass is outraged over this bloodletting, and he doesn’t draw any distinctions. The antiquities director makes a general accusation that is inconvenient for the West. He resembles the Sphinx, except that instead of causing the plague, he gives people a guilty conscience.
The man has already brought home 31,000 smuggled objects in past years. They are primarily pieces taken in illicit excavations, which have been sold over the last 50 years, through auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s, to museums in the United States.
He is celebrated at home for his achievements, and justifiably so. He even tracked down the embalmed body of Ramses I — in faraway Atlanta. Hawass bent over the papery face and sniffed it. Then he said: “I can smell it — this is Ramses.” The analysis proved him right.
His successes have earned him various descriptions at home, including the mummy magician, the hero from the desert, and the showman of shards who has turned the pyramids into a circus tent.
He has a good sense of humor, but can also be moody. Recently in New York, he upbraided several museum curators from Boston before the assembled world press. They own a statue that he believes belongs to his people. As he was speaking, he rolled his eyes and made a fist.
The Louvre also got a taste of his fury. Hawass wanted the French museum to return five magnificent frescoes it had acquired from a seller who had obtained them illegally. When it refused, he ejected French archeologists from Egypt and terminated all collaboration with the treasure trove on the Seine.
Finally, last October, French President Nicolas Sarkozy put in a sheepish call to Mubarak, promising that everything that had been requested would be turned over. Hawass was triumphant: “It was a victory for us.”
The antiquities director has stirred up a difficult fight, for which he will need staying power, strong nerves and robust good health.
To keep up his health, he begins normal workdays with gymnastics, on the advice of his wife, a gynecologist.
By 7 a.m., he is sitting in his office in the exclusive Zamalek neighborhood, drinking herbal tea and lemonade. He only goes out to eat in the evening. After 10 p.m., he relaxes over a game of backgammon in a café near his apartment.
But there are often times when Hawass has to get up very early, skip his morning routine, brush his teeth and quickly eat a falafel before heading out into the countryside in his Jeep.
An Enigmatic Character
The reason he is so busy is that he has monopolized all PR activities relating to archaeology. Some 225 foreign archeological teams are working along the Nile, and all are kept muzzled. None of the professors working with the teams is permitted to report important finds without official approval. “It used to be a self-service operation here,” says the boss, “but those days are gone.”
Hawass reserves the right to announce all discoveries himself. Not everyone likes this. Some people feel that he is about as interested in serious research as Rapunzel was in having her hair cut.
He boasted that there were “10,000 golden mummies” at the cemetery in Bahariya, but only 200 were found. And he mistakenly declared a shabby find in the Valley of Kings to be the gravesite of a female pharaoh.
His own excavation efforts also appear to be somewhat bizarre. For some time, the master has been searching for the body of Cleopatra in a temple near Alexandria — based on an idea suggested to him by a lawyer from the Dominican Republic.
“Are you sure about this?” a journalist wanted to know. Hawass replied: “Completely, otherwise I wouldn’t have even mentioned it. After all, I don’t want to embarrass myself.”
When nothing was found, despite feverish excavation efforts, Hawass took a granite bust of Cleopatra’s lover, Mark Antony, from a museum last year and pretended that he had just pulled it out of the ground.
Duncan Lees, a computer specialist who occasionally creates 3-D animations of grave shafts — in other words, a relatively minor player — calls him a “greedy guy” and a tyrant, who prefers to surround himself with “bootlickers.”
The major Egyptologists, on the other hand, are more reserved, and tend to whisper their criticism. They are anxious not to lose their licenses.
Many in the field had been secretly looking forward to May 28, the day the narcissistic archeologist turns 63, which would normally be his retirement age.
But instead of being feted with a farewell dinner, Hawass has just received a new position. President Mubarak has appointed him Deputy Minister of Culture, which means that he can continue working until the end of his life.
Nevertheless, this enigmatic figure is by no means the sum of his negative traits. He has really achieved something.
With his frenetic public relations activities and his boundless vanity, Hawass has sparked a change in awareness among the 80 million Egyptians and sparked a new sense of pride.
Part Six: Zahi Hawass stormed out of debate
“Unfortunately it appeared that Zahi was completely ignorant of the existence or implications of Gobekli Tepe, arguably the most important archaeological site in the world, so he was unable to answer the question which he passed on to the moderator …”.
Graham Hancock writes of the infamous incident in “Zahi Hawass vs Graham Hancock — the April 2015 “debate” debacle”: https://grahamhancock.com/hancockg15/
Egyptologists frequently pour scorn on alternative researchers calling them “pseudoscientists” and “pyramidiots” and other such insulting epithets. But look what happened when a leading Egyptologist was put to the test…
Dr Zahi Hawass, frequently promoted by his colleagues — for whom he is an icon of the mainstream point of view — as “the most famous archaeologist in the world”, had agreed to participate with me on 22 April 2015 in what was billed and advertised as “the first open debate between the representatives of two completely different versions of history.” Each of us was to give a one-hour presentation, followed by a debate in which the audience would join in with questions. In the event the debate never happened. Zahi refused to accept a coin-toss to decide the speaking order and insisted that I speak first. I agreed to this, despite the fact that the first speaker is at a slight disadvantage in any debate since he does not have the opportunity to hear the other speaker’s presentation before giving his own.
Before most of the audience had arrived, I was checking the focus on the slides in my PowerPoint presentation prior to giving my talk and I put up on the screen an image which shows the Orion/Pyramids correlation and the Sphinx/Leo correlation at Giza in the epoch of 10,500 BC. Rightly and properly since the Orion correlation is Robert Bauval’s discovery I included a portrait of Robert Bauval in the slide. As soon as Zahi saw Robert’s image he became furiously angry, shouted at me, made insulting and demeaning comments about Robert, and told me that if I dared to mention a single word about Robert in my talk he would walk out and refuse to debate me. I explained that the alternative view of history that I was on stage to represent could not exclude the Orion correlation and therefore could not exclude Robert Bauval. At that, again shouting, Zahi marched out of the debating room. Frantic negotiations then took place off stage between the conference organisers and Zahi. Finally Zahi agreed to return and give his talk and answer questions from the audience, but he refused absolutely to hear or see my talk, or to engage in any debate with me. I therefore gave my talk to the audience without Zahi present (he sat in a room outside the conference hall while I spoke). When I had finished I answered questions from the audience. Then Zahi entered, gave his talk, answered questions from the audience and left.
One of the few members of the audience who had arrived early did manage to record part of the scene of Zahi storming out of the conference room — see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ziu2ygE_Wc.
Likewise during Zahi’s Q&A he was asked a question about the 11,600-year-old megalithic site of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey and whether it had any impact on his assessment of the disputed age of the megalithic Great Sphinx of Giza (which I and my colleagues have long argued might be of similar antiquity). Unfortunately it appeared that Zahi was completely ignorant of the existence or implications of Gobekli Tepe, arguably the most important archaeological site in the world, so he was unable to answer the question which he passed on to the moderator, Dr Miroslav Barta, Head of the Czech Archaeological Institute in Cairo (who was by prior agreement not supposed to intervene or take sides in the debate at all) and whose knowledge of Gobekli Tepe was also clearly incomplete (for example Dr Barta stated that Gobekli Tepe dates from the “late eleventh millennium BC through the tenth millennium BC” whereas in fact the dates presently established for Gobekli Tepe are from 9600 BC — tenth millennium BC — through 8200 BC — ninth millennium BC — i.e. from 11,600 years ago to 10,200 years ago). Dr Barta also used circular logic, arguing that Egyptian civilisation is thousands of years younger than Gobekli Tepe and that therefore there could be no connection, whereas this is exactly the matter in debate, and the point of the question asked, namely whether the findings at Gobekli Tepe require open-minded consideration of the possibility that the Great Sphinx and other megalithic structures at Giza, and with them the origins of Egyptian civilisation, might in fact be much older than Egyptologists presently maintain. I did at that point have a brief opportunity to stand up and give my own point of view on Gobekli Tepe and on its implications for the age of the Sphinx — see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4NnCAZcxHg
I had high hopes for this debate — that it might bring about some sort of civil dialogue between alternative and mainstream views of history but I was sadly disappointed. ….
Mackey’s comment: The BC dates proposed here for both the Sphinx and Gobekli Tepe would be far too early according to my own opinion.