Egipto recupera sus momias y su pasado

El mes pasado, excavadores egipcios revelaron un tesoro escondido durante mucho tiempo en el cementerio de Al-Asasif en Luxor. El descubrimiento, que incluyó 30 ataúdes y momias bellamente conservados, que datan de más de 3.000 años, es uno de los hallazgos arqueológicos más notables del siglo pasado. Los cuerpos y los sarcófagos se han mantenido en perfectas condiciones, gracias al clima casi libre de humedad de Egipto y a la pura suerte de que los ladrones no hubieran dado con el antiguo entierro primero.

Han pasado cerca de 100 años desde que se desenterró un escondite de este tamaño en el país, dice Kara Cooney , egiptóloga de la UCLA. Las momias pertenecen a las dinastías XXI y XXII, añade, y los ataúdes probablemente pertenecían al sumo sacerdocio de Amón, no a la realeza. Dos de los cuerpos fueron identificados como niños.

“No había ningún rey de poder en Luxor en ese momento, por lo que la gente llenó ese vacío de poder con una especie de teocracia o gobierno de templo”, explica Cooney. “Los sacerdotes eran los que tenían el poder, los cargos y la capacidad de comprar ataúdes”.

Pero hay otra pepita innovadora en las noticias. Por primera vez en la historia, la tripulación detrás del hallazgo es toda egipcia.

“El último en 1891 fue [dirigido por] extranjeros. En 1881 [también] extranjeros. Pero… 2019 es un descubrimiento egipcio”, dijo a CNN Mostafa Waziri, secretario general del Consejo Supremo de Antigüedades de Egipto . “Este es un sentimiento indescriptible, lo juro por Dios”.

Para la arqueóloga Serena Love , que pasó años trabajando en yacimientos del valle del Nilo, esta es una de las partes más apasionantes y vitales del descubrimiento.

“There’s a deeply-rooted colonialist attitude of, ‘they’re not capable of taking care of their own heritage,’ ” Love says. “That’s what’s been changing. They are taking charge of their own heritage now.”

Modern Egyptology is a fairly new business. On paper it started with Napoleon Bonaparte, the infamous leader of France who rose to prominence in the late 18th century. During a campaign to invade Egypt in 1799, one of his foot soldiers stumbled upon the Rosetta Stone, leading some to think of Napoleon as the “grandfather of Egyptology,” says Love. This revelation set off a chain of European excavations around Africa, and some of the impacts still linger today.

As the first significant digs got underway in the mid-19th century, more Europeans arrived in Egypt to lead the archaeological work. They would outsource the physical labor to local teams, but take all the credit when it came to academic publications and media attention.

“The power imbalance was inherent in that division of labor,” says Meira Gold, a historian of science specializing in Victorian Egyptology. Despite working on almost every major excavation that took place in their country, “Egyptians were rendered invisible,” she adds. Sometimes they’d even tip Western archeologists off to prolific sites.

In the end, colonialists cast a long shadow over the ownership and interpretation of priceless artifacts. Europeans saw themselves as superior to current-day Egyptians, Gold says, and tried to “claim” the ancient culture as a part of the history of Western civilization. They sold the greatest treasures from the Nile Valley to museums in New York, London, Paris, and Berlin, where they continue to be housed to today.

After Great Britain occupied Egypt in 1882, archaeology turned into more of a “preservation practice” for white scientists who wanted to save Egyptian antiques. This practice continued until 1922—the same year the country won its independence—when a team led by English archaeologist Howard Carter discovered King Tut’s Tomb.

After a military coup in the 1950s, the Egyptian government moved all of the country’s major archaeological institutions, including the four museums, under its supervision, says Sameh Iskander, an Egyptian-American archaeologist at New York University.

“Now, the picture is completely different,” he adds. Egyptians run their own digs and make their own discoveries—but it’s been a long process to get there.

Diana Patch, currently the Lila Acheson Wallace Curator of Egyptian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, has worked on various sites around Egypt since 1979. In her time there, she and her colleagues noticed that many young Egyptians who were interested in field archaeology couldn’t get an education in it. Locals would be on dig sites as inspectors, but there was still a disconnect.

Through the American Research Center in Egypt and with a cultural grant from USAID, Patch began a solution in the mid-1990s: Egyptology field school.

Field school is a cornerstone of American archeology programs. Students spend a summer digging in situ, learning how to handle important historical quarry. Patch recruited Egyptian and American supervisors who’d been through field school in the US to lead groups of recruits in Egypt. Now, most of the Egyptian inspectors working on sites have gone through similar training.

But how does education help representation—and Egyptology—in the long run? “I feel that the Egyptians that I work with, the whole atmosphere has changed,” Iskander, who leads a field site at the Temple of Ramesses II in Abydos, says. “A lot of them have degrees now; a lot of them are pursuing graduate degrees.” And with more Egyptian archaeologists joining the ranks, there’s a larger well of expertise for scientists overseas to tap.

It also means that mummies and other priceless finds get to stay in the climate they were built and preserved for. After the King Tut artifacts come back from their current world tour, they will be permanently housed in Cairo at the new Grand Egyptian Museum, which is set to open at the end of 2020.

The treasures from the Al-Asasif dig are expected to remain in Cairo, too, overlooking the wondrous Pyramids of Giza.

It’s still a leap to say that Egyptians are the dominant force in the study of their origins. Iskander gave a talk a few weeks ago at the International Congress of Egyptologists in Cairo, and out of the 350 or so people speaking, only around 50 were Egyptian.

Part of the reason for this may be that English is still the leading language in Egyptology, despite the fact that Modern Standard Arabic is the official language of the region. In the same way that museums continue holding on to Egyptian relics, Gold says language is another colonial battle left to fight.

“There’s still this lingering power imbalance,” Gold says of the relationship between Egyptian and Western archaeologists. A lot of Egyptology programs, she explains, require knowledge in a smattering of languages, including English, French, German, and some elements of ancient Egyptian languages.

Modern Egyptian languages? Not so much, she says.

“As a result, very few Egyptological publications are written in Arabic. I think that speaks volumes as to how Egyptian archaeologists are still excluded.”

On his field sites, Iskander says that American students knew very little Arabic and have to communicate exclusively in English. Most Egyptologists have been forced to do the same. That’s not necessarily a problem, he says: If more Egyptian programs taught English, archaeologists from all over, including Egypt, would have better access to international journals that aren’t printed in the native tongue.

In Iskander’s view, the best way to fight back Victorian notions of Egyptology is by bringing more Egyptians to the table through education. Last year he started up a new field school for Egyptian archeologists—something he hopes international institutions take note of as the numbers of home-grown experts slowly rise in the field.

“Toda misión extranjera debería considerar la posibilidad de celebrar al menos una sesión de escuela de campo”, afirma, “para devolver a Egipto lo que Egipto nos ha estado dando a todos a lo largo de los años”.

Related Posts

Sofyan Amrabat: A Rising Midfield Maestro

Sofyan Amrabat: A Rising Midfield Maestro Introduction: In the dynamic world of football, midfielders often serve as the heartbeat of a team, dictating play with their vision, technique, and tenacity….

Read more

Tyrell Malacia: Manchester United’s Rising Star

Tyrell Malacia: Manchester United’s Rising Star Introduction: In the bustling world of football, young talents often emerge as beacons of hope for their clubs, embodying the promise of a bright…

Read more

Phoenicopteridae: A Fascinating Insight into Flamingos

Phoenicopteridae: A Fascinating Insight into Flamingos Introduction: Phoenicopteridae, commonly known as flamingos, are iconic birds renowned for their vibrant plumage and distinctive behaviors. Belonging to the order Phoenicopteriformes, these elegant…

Read more

The Magnificence of the Peacock: Nature’s Regal Beauty

  The Magnificence of the Peacock: Nature’s Regal Beauty The peacock, renowned for its resplendent plumage and captivating displays, stands as a symbol of beauty and elegance in the avian…

Read more

Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour Looks: Every Meaning, Easter Egg & Fan Theory

Taylor Swift has officially kicked off her highly anticipated Eras Tour. After two spectacular performances in Arizona (that included a causal 44 songs over 3 hours), we finally got a…

Read more

The Art of the Three Kingdoms: Exploring Five Generals Tattoo Designs

The Art of the Three Kingdoms: Exploring Five Generals Tattoo Designs The Three Kingdoms era of ancient China is not just a pivotal period in history but also a rich…

Read more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *