Archaeology and the Arab Spring

With the most recent bouts of protests happening in Egypt over Morsi’s power  play where he extended his political powers through a constitution, I started to wonder what if any implications the Arab Spring has had on archaeology in Egypt. I started to research the affects of the Arab Spring on archaeological digs, and I discovered an article written just 5 days ago about the affects of this event. According to the article “Archaeology Meets Politics: Spring Comes to Ancient Egypt,” the Arab Spring has contributed to some significant challenges for archaeology.

One of the biggest figures discussed in the article was Zahi Hawass, who is of the biggest faces of Egyptian archaeology and the former leader of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). During the protests against Mubarak, some people implicated Hawass in funneling artifacts and money to the former president. Though Hawass claims this never happened, he has still resigned as the leader of the SCA. Now there is a power vacuum in the leadership as well as an apparent lack of funding. This will cause some significant obstacles for future projects. Additionally the Arab Spring has halted some current archaeological digs, like one in Amarna. Because of the protests, archaeologists were forced to flee, and though none of the tombs at Amarna were looted…they still lost one year of dig time.

Another current obstacle comes from the actual protests of SCA workers. Many of them are eitheer out protesting the current president, or fighting the SCA for better wages and benefits. The implications for the Arab Spring on archaeology are extremely important. With the protests and change of government, the current artifacts and archaeological sites must be protected. It is important to examine how the current events and politics will shape the future of archaeology, because in the end it is important to protect the past to better understand the future.