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Home Culture An extravagant project to cover a Giza pyramid with granite sparks controversy in Egypt | Culture

An extravagant project to cover a Giza pyramid with granite sparks controversy in Egypt | Culture

by News Room
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The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced at the end of January an ambitious project to cover the exterior of the smallest of the three emblematic pyramids of Giza with granite blocks, in order to restore it to the appearance they consider it had when it was built more ago. of 4,000 years. The idea has been shelved for the moment because it quickly generated strong controversy due to what its critics judge to be a lack of historical rigor, the absence of public and scientific debate and the risks it could entail for the iconic structure.

The authority responsible for Egyptian antiquities reported in a brief initial statement that the project had the objective of studying and documenting the granite blocks that are today scattered at the base of the pyramid of Mycerinus (Menkaura), with the ultimate goal of reinstall the supposed cover that it once wore. In a video on his Facebook profile, Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the main body of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, assured that the work was scheduled to last three years and would allow the complete pyramid of the pyramid to be seen again. Pharaoh Menkaura. The famous Egyptian archaeologist, who appeared in the video with a group of workers working in front of the foundations of the pyramid, described the works as “project of the century.”

The Pyramid of Mycerinus, built around 2,500 BC, stands in the shadow of the larger pyramids of Cheops and Khafre in the Giza Necropolis, west of Cairo, and was built by order of a pharaoh of the same name. As Waziri stated in his video, Micerino’s is the only one of the more than 120 pyramids built in the country that supposedly had a granite covering, although today only up to eight lower rows of blocks of this material are partially preserved.

At the base of the pyramid you can still find many granite blocks, some of them buried, and the plan devised by the Egyptian authorities was to rescue them, study them and reinstall them where they judge they were once located. They also believe they could end up unearthing other antiquities that remain hidden beneath these blocks. The project included documentation, photogrammetry and laser scanning of the fragments before installing them on the outside of the pyramid.

Several renowned Egyptian archaeologists, however, have jumped to point out that there is no archaeological evidence nor historical information about the supposed original position of these granite blocks on the outside of the pyramid. And they have assured that it has been proven that the fragments scattered around the structure are not polished, unlike those that were placed as cladding, which indicates that they were not installed nor therefore fell, but rather were in all probability abandoned by the workers as unfinished work. Furthermore, it has been noted that some of these blocks were collected in the past by various rulers for use in other works, including in buildings in historic Cairo.

“Any attempt to place and refine the blocks around the pyramid is a blatant interference with the work of the ancient Egyptians, who still needed to complete this pyramid, and would affect the integrity and authenticity of the monument,” he said in a shared statement. on social networks a group of Egyptian archaeologists led by the prominent Egyptologist Monica Hanna.

Another criticism raised against the project has been that it could contravene the rules for the restoration and conservation of monuments and archaeological sites, in this case recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO, since this type of work must respect the original material and the authentic documents. They also have to avoid guesswork and, otherwise, make it clear that it is a different work from the original. Along these lines, archaeologist Salima Ikram pointed out in a message on the networks that “documenting the blocks that have fallen, as well as the pyramid itself, seems like a very good idea,” but she recommended going “with lead feet” because “ideas about restoration and conservation change” and “what was considered great when it was made is often criticized ten years later.”

Likewise, the community of archaeologists requested that the loads and pressure that the granite fragments would exert on the pyramid be studied, and the extent to which its exterior and interior structure could be affected by the additional weight. “The degree of intervention in Egyptian antiquities and heritage far exceeds anything imaginable. “How can the pyramid be covered again by a unilateral decision without the opinion of specialists?” Ibrahem Badr, a professor of archaeological restoration and conservation at a university in Cairo, lamented on platform X.

The theatrical manner in which such a relevant work was announced, the lack of dialogue with archaeologists and the general public, the scarcity of details and the absence of scientific foundation and support to support the project has also been criticized. “Egyptian antiquities belong to all Egyptians; They are not the exclusive property of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities or the archaeological missions. And we all have the right to know in detail, through social and scientific dialogue, what is happening to our heritage,” Hanna explained.

As a result of the controversy unleashed by the announcement, the Egyptian authorities asked a scientific committee, headed by the famous archaeologist Zahi Hawass, to review the entire project and present a report according to which they would make a final decision on the installation of the granite blocks. .

The committee finally spoke out last Thursday, and joined the voices of those who reject the reinstallation of the fragments of the supposed cladding of the structure, underscoring the importance of maintaining it in its current state due to its universal and archaeological value. The group also agreed that it would be impossible to determine the original position of any of the granite blocks scattered around the pyramid, although they supported the study portion of the project of both the structure and these fragments.

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