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Posted on Tuesday, February 12 - 2008

" Copyright © Al-Ahram WeeklyThe Supreme Council of Antiquities has achieved its goal. It has evicted what it regards as squatters (in fact 10,000 long- standing residents) from an area known as Sheikh Abdel-Qurna, one of Luxor's most important archaeological sites, where they lived over ..."

Qurna: Shop

Copyright © Al-Ahram Weekly

The Supreme Council of Antiquities has achieved its goal. It has evicted what it regards as squatters (in fact 10,000 long- standing residents) from an area known as Sheikh Abdel-Qurna, one of Luxor's most important archaeological sites, where they lived over and among the tombs of the nobles. Apart from a few of the most decorative and brightly-decorated mud-brick houses, most of the homes belonging to the people, known as Qurnawis, have been demolished.Speaking on the occasion of the opening of the new community for the displaced residents in December 2006, Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the SCA, expressed delight at their relocation and mentioned that the tombs could now beadequately protected.

The foreign press picked up on this and justified the demolition of the houses by propagating a myth that the Qurnawis were thieves who traditionally pillaged artefacts to sell to tourists and who had done terrible damage to the tombs.The accusation is not deserved, and Al-Ahram Weekly wants to set that record put straight. To quote Egyptologist Nicole Hanson, who said in a paper presented at the Egyptologists' Electronic Forum some time ago, "Our Egyptological predecessors of the 19th century were just as involved in this trade (i.e. the pillaging of monuments) as the Qurnawis." Hanson spoke with passion. She pointed out that the negative perception of the Luxor west bank population was an outcome of European and Egyptology-induced labour relations, and that "Qurnawi incorporation into a globalsystem includes the international demand for antiquities, the vagaries of economic downturns, and the steady stream of archaeologically- focussed foreign tourists largely ignorant about contemporary Egyptians." She claimed that racist remarks about the Qurnawis were hypocritical and should be ended, and added that the label "west bank bandits" was an attribution contradicted by historical and anthropological research. On the contrary, recent studies of unexcavated tombs in Qurna revealed that some were inhabited by local craft producers making of fake antiquities for tourists through to the 1990s. Hanson indicated that, with each generation of archaeologists, methods and technology had emerged that made it possible to recover more and more information about the past. That methodology and technology, however, did not exist in theory or in practice in the 19thcentury. Cha......


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