Zahi Hawass is an Egyptianarchaeologist, an Egyptologist, and former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs. He has also worked at archaeological sites in the Nile Delta, the Western Desert, and the Upper Nile Valley.
Hawass has received widespread publicity internationally, and was the subject of a reality television series in the United States, Chasing Mummies. His views and links to business ventures and the Mubarak regime have engendered controversy. In connection with the awarding of a gift shop contract at the Egyptian Museum and alleged smuggling of antiquities, he was sentenced to a prison term, which was later lifted.
Life and career
Hawass was born in Damietta, Egypt. He originally intended to become a lawyer, but then studied Greek and Roman archaeology at Alexandria University, where he obtained a B.Sc. degree. He obtained a diploma in Egyptology at the University of Cairo. In 1987 he received his PhD degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied as a Fulbright Fellow
After 1988 Hawass taught Egyptian archaeology, history and culture, mostly at the American University in Cairo and the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1993 he left his position as Chief Inspector of the Giza Pyramid Plateau. According to Hawass, he resigned. Others[who?] claim, however, that he was fired because a valuable ancient "statue" under the custody of Hawass was stolen from Giza. He was reinstated as Chief Inspector in early 1994. In 1998 he was appointed as director of the Giza Plateau. In 2002 he was appointed Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities.
When U.S. President Barack Obama was in Cairo in June 2009 Hawass gave him personal tours of the sites of ancient Egypt. At the end of 2009 he was promoted personally by President Hosni Mubarak to the post of Vice Minister of Culture
In the midst of the 2011 Egyptian protests, Hawass arrived at the Egyptian Museum on January 29, 2011 to find that a number of cases had been broken into and a number of antiquities damaged. Police later secured the museum. Hawass was reported to have faxed a colleague that 13 cases were destroyed and to have said, "My heart is broken and my blood is boiling."[ Hawass later told the New York Times that thieves looking for gold broke 70 objects, including two sculptures of Tutankhamen, and took two skulls from a research lab before being stopped as they were leaving the museum
Minister of Antiquities
He was appointed Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, a newly created cabinet post, by Mubarak on January 31, 2011 as part of a cabinet shakeup during the 2011 Egyptian protests.
In a blog on his website it was reported that Hawass "will continue excavating, writing books, and representing his country." Hawass' blog said that archeological sites in Egypt were being safeguarded and that looted objects had been returned. Regarding the Egyptian Museum looting, he said that "The museum was dark and the nine robbers did not recognise the value of what was in the vitrines. They opened thirteen cases, threw the seventy objects on the ground and broke them, including one Tutankhamun case, from which they broke the statue of the king on a panther. However, the broken objects can all be restored, and we will begin the restoration process this week." Hawass rejected comparisons with the looting of antiquities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On February 13 Hawass said that eighteen artifacts, including statues of King Tutankhamun, were stolen from the Egyptian Museum in January. Among them were eleven wooden shabti statuettes from Yuya, a gilded wooden statue of Tutankhamun carried by a goddess and a statue of Nefertiti. Egyptian state television reported that Hawass called upon Egyptians not to believe the “lies and fabrications” of the Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya satellite television channels. Hawass later said “They should give us the opportunity to change things, and if nothing happens they can march again. But you can’t bring in a new president now, in this time. We need Mubarak to stay and make the transition.”
On March 3, 2011 he resigned after a list was posted on his personal website of dozens of sites across Egypt that were looted in the 2011 protests. On March 30, 2011 a tweet was posted stating that he was once again the Minister of Antiquities ("I am very happy to be the Minister of Antiquities once again!"). He was reappointed by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf at that time, but resigned on July 17, 2011, after Sharaf informed him he would not be continuing in the position. According to other newspaper reports, he was sacked from his job.
Hawass has written and co-written many books relating to Egyptology, including King Tutankhamun: The Treasures from the Tomb, published to coincide with a major exhibition in the UK. He has also written an article on Tutankhamun in Ancient Egypt magazine, and has written several articles for this bi-monthly UK-based magazine in the past.
Hawass is a regular columnist for Egypt Today magazine] and the online historical community, Heritage Key. He has narrated several videos on Egyptology, including a series on Tutankhamun.
Zahi Hawass signing a book in Mexico City, August 2003.
Hawass has appeared on television specials on channels such as the National Geographic Channel, The History Channel and Discovery Channel. Hawass has also appeared in several episodes of the U.S. television show Digging for the Truth, discussing mummies, the pyramids, Tutankhamun, Cleopatra, and Ramesses II. He also appeared on Unsolved Mysteries during a segment on the curse of Tutankhamun's tomb. Hawass is currently appearing on a reality-based television show on The History Channel called Chasing Mummies
Hawass also worked alongside Egyptologist Otto Schaden during the opening of Tomb KV63 in February 2006 – the first intact tomb to be found in the Valley of the Kings since 1922
In June 2007 Hawass announced that he and a team of experts may have identifiedthe mummy of Hatshepsut in KV60, a small tomb in the Valley of the Kings The opening of the sealed tomb was described in 2006 as "one of the most important events in the Valley of the Kings for almost a hundred years."
Hawass helped create and host the documentary Egypt's Ten Greatest Discoveries.
Return of artifacts to Egypt
Hawass spearheaded a movement to return many prominent unique and/or irregularly taken Ancient Egyptian artifacts, such as the Rosetta Stone, the bust of Nefertiti, the Dendera zodiac ceiling painting from the Dendera Temple, the bust of Ankhhaf (the architect of the KhafraPyramid), the faces of Amenhotep III's tomb at the Louvre Museum, the Luxor Temple's obelisk at the Place de la Concorde and the statue of Hemiunu, nephew of the Pharaoh Khufu, builder of the largest pyramid, to Egypt from collections in various other countries. In July 2003 the Egyptians requested the return of the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum. Hawass, as Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo, told the press, "If the British want to be remembered, if they want to restore their reputation, they should volunteer to return the Rosetta Stone because it is the icon of our Egyptian identity." Referring to antiquities at the British Museum, Hawass said “These are Egyptian monuments. I will make life miserable for anyone who keeps them.” Britain has refused to return them
The Wall Street Journal commented that the looting of antiquities during the 2011 civil unrest in Egypt made Hawass' quest to return Egyptian antiquities to Egypt "misguided or at least poorly timed."
Opposition to Afrocentrists
He is opposed to the claims of Afrocentrists. According to Hawass, "Tutankhamun was not black, and the portrayal of ancient Egyptian civilization as black has no element of truth to it."
DNA testing of Egyptian mummies
Hawass has been skeptical of DNA testing of Egyptian mummies: "From what I understand, it is not always accurate and it cannot always be done with complete success when dealing with mummies. Until we know for sure that it is accurate, we will not use it in our research."
In December 2000, a joint team from Waseda University in Japan and Cairo's Ain Shams University tried to get permission for DNA testing of Egyptian mummies, but was denied by the Egyptian Government. Hawass added that DNA analysis was out of the question because it would not lead to anything.
In February 2010, Hawass and his team announced that they had analyzed the mummies of Tutankhamun and ten other mummies and said that the king could have died from a malaria infection that followed a leg fracture.
German researchers Christian Timmann and Christian Meyer have cast doubt on this theory, suggesting other as-yet unproven alternatives for Tutankhamun's cause of death
Statements about Israel and Jews
Hawass has been a long-standing opponent of normalized relations between Israel and Egypt.
In January 2009 Hawass wrote in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that "The concept of killing women, children and elderly people ... seems to run in the blood of the Jews of Palestine" and that "the only thing that the Jews have learned from history is methods of tyranny and torment — so much so that they have become artists in this field." He explained that he was not referring to the Jews' "[original] faith" but rather "the faith that they forged and contaminated with their poison, which is aimed against all of mankind."
In an interview on Egyptian television in April 2009 Hawass stated that "although Jews are few in number, they control the entire world" and commented on the "control they have" of the American economy and the media. He later clarified that he was using rhetoric to explain political fragmentation among the Arabs and that he does not believe in a "Jewish conspiracy to control the world".
Hawass has been widely accused of domineering behaviour, forbidding archaeologists to announce their own findings, and courting the media for his own gain after they were denied access to archaeological sites because, according to Hawass, they were too amateurish. A few, however, have said in interviews that some of what Hawass has done for the field was long overdue. Hawass has typically ignored or dismissed his critics, and when asked about it he indicated that what he does is for the sake of Egypt and the preservation of its antiquities. Hawass helped to institute a systematic program for the preservation and restoration of historical monuments, while training Egyptians to improve their expertise on methods of excavation, retrieval and preservation.
Criticism of Hawass increased following the protests in Egypt in 2011. The New York Times reported in a front page story in July 2011 that he receives an honorarium each year "of as much as $200,000" from National Geographic to be an explorer-in-residence, "even as he controls access to the ancient sites it often features in its reports."
The Times also reported that he has relationships with two American companies that do business in Egypt. On April 17, 2011, Hawass was sentenced to jail for one year for refusing to obey a court rulingrelating to a contract for the gift shop at the Egyptian Museum to a company with links to Hawass. The ruling was appealed and this specific sentence was suspended pending appeal On April 18, 2011, the National Council of Egypt’s Administrative Court issued a decree stopping the court ruling, specifying that he would not serve any jail time, and would remain in his position as Minister of Antiquities.
Association with former Egyptian President Mubarak
Hawass has been closely associated with former President Hosni Mubarak's government. He was amember of the government as Minister of Antiquities during Mubarak's presidency. His resignation as Minister on March 3, 2011 and his re-appointment to the Ministry on March 30, 2011 have been seen as part of the overall events surrounding Mubarak's resignation. It has been reported that his appointment has angered numerous factions, who have opposed the appointment of any of the old guard under Mubarak to new positions in the government.
The 2011 Egyptian protests resulted in increased criticism of Hawass. Demonstrators called for his resignation, and the upheaval has increased attention on his relationship with the Mubarak family and the way in which he has increased his public profile in recent years.
Maimonides Synagogue incident
In March 2010 Hawass canceled the official re-opening of the restored Maimonides Synagogue in Cairo. In his email cancellation message issued in Arabic he described the Jewish dedication ceremony on March 7, which included dancing and serving wine, as "provocation to the feelings of hundreds of millions of Muslims in Egypt and around the world". In an English-language statement issued a few hours later the remarks about "drinking and dancing" were removed. Hawass said that the decision was made at "a time when Muslim holy sites in occupied Palestine face assaults from Israeli occupation forces and settlersHe later also said that canceling the ceremony was a "strong slap in the face" to "the Zionist enemy"and that he would "not allow any Jew to pray in the temple, and would not allow any Israeli to pray in the temple.” A private dedication ceremony closed to media was held instead for approximately 150 European Jews with historical ties to Egypt in attendance]
Hawass has lent his name to a line of men's apparel, described by The New York Times as "a line of rugged khakis, denim shirts and carefully worn leather jackets that are meant, according to the catalog copy, to hark 'back to Egypt’s golden age of discovery in the early 20th century.'" The clothing was first sold at Harrods department store in London in April 2011. Critics say the Hawass clothing commercializes Egyptian history and there were accusations, which proved incorrect, that models had sat on or scuffed ancient artifacts during a photo shoot for advertisements. Hawass already sells a line of hats similar to the ones he wears, which mimic the ones worn by Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones movies.
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