The head piece of the statue - YOUM7 (Archive)/Hassan Mohammed
CAIRO – 13 March 2017: A massive ancient Egyptian statue was discovered March 10 under the groundwater of Matariya, a working class neighborhood in northeast Cairo. The artifact was removed from the ground Monday morning under the supervision of the Minister of Antiquities himself, yet angered Egyptians for what they perceived as haphazard handling of the statue.
The 26-foot-tall quartzite statue was discovered by Egyptian archeologists in cooperation with a German archeological team. Pictures and videos of the statue being removed from the ground circulated on social media.
The pictures, some of which showed a crane being used to help with the excavation, stirred Egyptians into a furor on social media as viewers drew the conclusion that the crane and lack of care by the team resulted in the statue being broken into pieces.
Pieces of the statue were left without any supervision in the slum where they were found, covered in blankets, and the children of Matariya took selfies with pieces of the statue which later circulated on social media.
Some observers took the information sardonically, creating a series of online memes criticizing the sloppiness of Egypt’s Ministry of Antiques throughout the process of the discovery. In one, the statue was depicted dreading his discovery and swearing at the driver of the bulldozer.
However, Dietrich Raue, head of the German archeology team that helped to discover the statue,
to late night program “A’ala Maso’lety” that the statue was shattered 1500 years ago and the extraction process had nothing to do with it. The statue was removed in the condition in which it was found, he said.
Osama Karar, head of the National Committee for the Protection of Monuments, echoed the opinion of Egyptians on social media when he said in an
on late-night talk show “90 Minutes” that he personally owes all Egyptians an apology for the mistreatment of the statue.
Karar also noted that social media played a “huge” role in bringing images of the extraction process to light.
Egyptian archaeologist and former Minister of Antiquities Dr. Zahi Hawas reviewed the whole process of the extraction and said it could be classified as an emergency extraction judging by the available facilities.
“Of course there were mistakes made during the process, such as forgetting to cover the head of the statue during the extraction or pulling it out using an unprotected crane that could have harmed the statue, yet at the end of the day the statue was completely unharmed,” Hawas told Egypt Today.
Raue and Hawas, who were both present at the scene, said the statue was broken during the early rise of Christianity in Egypt. Ancient statues were often perceived as idols and consequently destroyed by early Christians; the historical value of such artifacts was not known or recognized until centuries later.
Hawas added that the recent discovery is one of the most important archeological discoveries in Egypt in the last five years, and could positively affect tourism in Egypt.
The Restoration Director of the Egyptian Museum, Moe’ men Othman, told
earlier this week that the extracted head of the statue could be displayed starting from Monday at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square. Othman said this piece of the statue is in a stable condition and may be moved to the new extension of the Egyptian Museum in 6 October City in 2018.
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