Ancient Egyptian artifacts, that were recently returned from Italy, are seen on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
CAIRO - 24 October 2018: A report published by ABC News claiming that the value of Egyptian artifacts smuggled since 2011 is $3 billion has triggered denunciation by Egyptian archaeologists and officials.
The report posted on Oct. 20 referred to a U.S. based NGO called
, which estimates that “looting has increased 500-1000%, costing the Egyptian government up to $3 billion” without indicating how it calculated that figure.
The NGO mentioned a research project titled
conducted by its Chief of Staff Katie A. Paul, who is essentially an anthropologist. The study was published in January 2016.
The study analyzed “(mainstream) media and social media reports from activists, government agencies, reporters and archaeological experts that have continuously streamed out of Egypt since January 25, 2011,” according to The Antiquities Coalition. The reports are “related to cultural heritage crimes,” as stated by the NGO and the research paper.
However, the time frame indicated in the paper differs from those mentioned by
. The paper says that the time frame is three years - 2011, 2012, and 2013. On the other hand, the NGO and ABC News designate it as five and six years, respectively.
Furthermore, ABC stated that Paul’s analysis “revealed there have been about 2000 seizures of Egyptian antiquities in ports globally,” although that is mentioned nowhere in the study which just examines two variables.
One is the “classification of reported heritage incidents,” and the other is “criminal demographics of reported heritage incidents.” In simpler words, the locations of robbed antiquities and the types of culprits. The paper includes graphs that show the rise and decline in these variables without providing any percentages or numbers.
That figure is not the only piece of information reported by ABC News that does not exist in the study. The article said that Paul’s paper stated that, “a Facebook page created in 2016 to crowdsource information on how to do your own illegal excavation has attracted more than 50,000 members in a year.”
However, the research has not mentioned that and never determined or even hinted that “social media has also played a significant role in resurgence of the illegal trade” unlike what is reported by ABC News.
"A lot of the individuals are economically desperate, and it is a symptom of a larger economic issue with the downfall of tourism after the revolution," ABC News fakely quoted Paul saying in the research paper.
ABC News presented within the story a 30-second video featuring Google Earth images, allegedly showing illegal excavation in an archeological site called Abu Sir al-Malaq located in Upper Egypt’s Beni Suef governorate. The images, taken from 2010 to 2017, show an empty land where the number of holes increases every year.
Although the paper does not offer any tangible data or even mention the name of social media pages/accounts and publications used for conducting the analysis, Paul got an opportunity to present it in the
held in 2016 in San Francisco.
Minister of Antiquities Khaled al-Anany announced before the House of Representatives that 32,000 artifacts were stolen from 10 storehouses in 2017 and that 54 were looted from the Egyptian Museum during January 25 Revolution. The main destinations of smuggled Egyptian antiquities are the United States, and Western Europe. The minister added that there is no record of all the illegally excavated artifacts.
However, the ministry keeps an eye on auctions and museums worldwide to detect pieces that got out of the country illegally. In June, spokesperson of the Cabinet Ashraf Soltan told press that Egypt recovered 1,000 artifacts over the past two years.
Article 43 of the Egyptian Penal Code sets life sentence, and a fine ranging from LE 50,000 ($2,777) to LE 250,000 ($18,888) as penalty for artifacts smuggling, illegal excavation or circulation of antiquities.