Egypt unveils trove of ancient coffins excavated in Luxor

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Painted ancient coffins are seen at Al-Asasif necropolis, unveiled by Egyptian antiquities officials in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor on Saturday. (Reuters)
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Tourists look at painted ancient coffins at Al-Asasif necropolis, unveiled by Egyptian antiquities officials in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt October 19, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 20 October 2019

Egypt unveils trove of ancient coffins excavated in Luxor

  • Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, says the coffins were for men, women and children from the 22nd dynasty (945 B.C. 715 B.C.)

LUXOR: Egypt revealed on Saturday a rare trove of 30 ancient wooden coffins that have been well-preserved over millennia in the archaeologically rich Valley of the Kings in Luxor.
The Antiquities Ministry officially unveiled the discovery made at Asasif, a necropolis on the west bank of the Nile River, at a press conference against the backdrop of the Hatshepsut Temple.
“This is the first discovery in Asasif by dedicated Egyptian hands, comprised of archaeologists, conservationists and workers,” head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Al-Waziri, told reporters.
The 30 ornately decorated coffins of men, women and children were found only 3 feet underground, stacked in two rows. They are believed to belong to family members of high priests.
Waziri explained that excavations of the site in the 19th century had revealed royal tombs, but this latest discovery had yielded a collection of priests’ burials.
The sarcophagi date back to the 22nd Dynasty, founded around 3,000 years ago in the 10th century BC.
Despite their age, black, green, red and yellow paintings of snakes, birds, lotus flowers and hieroglyphics that cover the coffins are still clearly visible.
“We only did remedial first-aid on these well-preserved coffins. They are considered to be in great condition because there were hardly any settlements” around the site, local Antiquities Ministry restorer Saleh Abdel-Gelil told AFP.
According to Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany, discoveries of ancient Egyptian relics had slowed after the 2011 Arab Spring revolution that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak and plunged the country in political turmoil.

SPEEDREAD

Egypt has sought to promote its archaeological heritage and recent finds in a bid to revive its vital tourism sector, which has suffered due to political insecurity and terror attacks.

But several high-level officials, including President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, have in recent weeks affirmed Egypt’s stability following rare, small-scale protests in September that drew a heavy-handed response from security forces.
“Some people, we don’t have to mention names, don’t want us to have these discoveries ... that impress the world,” said Enany before throngs of tourists, referring to Egypt’s detractors.
“These discoveries are priceless for Egypt’s reputation,” he added.
Enany said the “important” Asasif collection will be moved to the recently opened Grand Egyptian Museum next year.
Egypt has sought to promote its archaeological heritage and recent finds in a bid to revive its vital tourism sector, which has suffered due to political insecurity and terror attacks.
However, critics point to archaeological sites and museums suffering from negligence and poor management.


Israeli attack aimed to get Netanyahu out of the jam

Updated 47 min 9 sec ago

Israeli attack aimed to get Netanyahu out of the jam

AMMAN: Pundits and politicians appear to agree that the assassination of Islamic Jihad leader Bahaa Abu Al-Atta and his wife in Gaza, as well as the failed attack in Damascus against Akram Ajoury was committed to assuage domestic Israeli political tensions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing a corruption indictment and possibly about to lose power to opponent Benny Gantz, apparently acted in his own self-interest, disrupting political talks and potentially destabilizing Gantz’ support from the Arab Joint List.

Jafar Farah, director of the Haifa-based Mossawa Center, told Arab News the Israeli attack in Gaza had all but ended the possibility of the Joint List supporting any Israeli government.

“Before the attack, 10 out of the 13 elected members of the Knesset were on board with the idea of supporting, externally, a minority government. Now the number of those supporting this has been reduced, as the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality are opposed to supporting any government,” he said.

Gantz, who apparently was briefed before the attack, has come out publicly in support of Israel’s actions, which killed over 20 Palestinians including women and children.

Michel Oun, Middle East professor at Haifa University, told Arab News that a major reason behind the Israeli attack was internal politics. “If we can use football terms, we were in the last minutes of the game, time was running out on Netanyahu, he had to do something,” Oun said, adding that the attack had ended any possibility of an Israeli minority government with the Arab Joint List supporting it.

“I was always skeptical about this issue even before the attacks on Gaza, because of the paternalistic and racist way Israelis were talking about it in which the very idea of having Arab members of the Knesset supporting a government, even from the outside, was seen as unacceptable and treasonous.”

Merav Michaeli, a member of the Knesset from the Israeli Labor Party, told Arab News that the way Netanyahu used the attack in Gaza was suspicious. 

“I saw the chief of staff and head of the secret service standing and talking about the necessity and opportunity that was provided to them. I believe that the Israeli civil service officials are telling the truth, although the attack was greatly exploited and abused politically. The very fact that Netanyahu had to bring these military officials to the press conference shows that half of Israel does not trust him and he had to have them confirm their position,” she said.

Pundits had opposing views as to who would benefit from the stretch of the cycle of attacks with Gaza. “Regardless of politics I hope that the violence ends as soon as possible,” Michaeli told Arab News.