Sunday, April 03, 2011

We're Gonna Need More Guns, continued

Reports from Luxor Times and Al Ahram to the effect that ten armed masked men broke into a storehouse in Tel El daba', Facous, Sharkia governate, which was guarded by a policeman and three "Ghafir" guards working for the SCA; it is not completely clear from the reports if all four were armed but the Luxor Times describes the gang as having taken away "their weapons", so it appears that more than one was armed, though no information is provided as to whether these arms were handguns or automatic weapons. The gang apparently caught these four by surprise, or perhaps they were unwilling to engage in a firefight they would probably have lost, or perhaps they feared having their families targeted if they fought back (this was a common problem in Iraq where both site guards and looters often were locals who knew each other).

This is by no means the first time since the revolution that an armed gang has attacked a storeroom, but by now one would have hoped that the SCA and the Egyptian government would have responded by providing their own guards and police with the arms and additional security needed to fend off such attempts. But with the country still in transitional turmoil, and Zahi Hawass first in then out then in, that has proved difficult.

Clearly, more needs to be done to protect all storerooms (not to mention sites!). This particular storeroom contained artifacts excavated by Dutch and German archaeologists over the last thirty years; other storerooms that have been looted also have contained the fruits of foreign-led excavations (including one by the ultra-wealthy Metropolitan Museum). One wonders what steps, if any, those archaeological organizations and their governments might be taking now to beef up security at least for the artifacts that their archaeologists helped bring out of the ground. Obviously it would be difficult if not impossible for a foreign group to arm Egyptian guards, but surely there must be other steps that could be taken to help, including paying locals to set up a monitoring system to warn guards of impending attacks, providing remote sensing devices to detect intruders, hardening the sites themselves, etc. Does anyone out there know if any such plans are afoot?

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