Zahi Hawass: Egypt’s Avenger of the Pharaohs

Well, it’s another dead news Sunday before Memorial Day, so I don’t have much to share. At least Der Spiegel has a fascinating glimpse into the world of Zahi Hawass that you might get a kick out of. He harasses his driver through the streets of dawn Cairo, calling people assholes and running down chickens along the way. Poor chickens. 🙁

Here’s my favorite part:

The man has already brought home 31,000 smuggled objects in past years. They are primarily pieces taken in illicit excavations, which have been sold over the last 50 years, through auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s, to museums in the United States.

He is celebrated at home for his achievements, and justifiably so. He even tracked down the embalmed body of Ramses I — in faraway Atlanta. Hawass bent over the papery face and sniffed it. Then he said: “I can smell it — this is Ramses.” The analysis proved him right.

That’s just cool, I don’t care what your perspective on repatriation.

It’s also interesting to see what a stranglehold he has on all things related to Egyptian archaeology. Not only does he publicly bitchslap Western museums on a regular basis, but he’s in complete control of all the digs in the country. That means not a single excavation team can say a word about anything without going through him first, and there are hundreds of teams excavating in Egypt at any given time.

His craving for the limelight means he’s talked up finds that turned out to be minor and even indulged in some straight-up fiction.

He boasted that there were “10,000 golden mummies” at the cemetery in Bahariya, but only 200 were found. And he mistakenly declared a shabby find in the Valley of Kings to be the gravesite of a female pharaoh.

His own excavation efforts also appear to be somewhat bizarre. For some time, the master has been searching for the body of Cleopatra in a temple near Alexandria — based on an idea suggested to him by a lawyer from the Dominican Republic.

“Are you sure about this?” a journalist wanted to know. Hawass replied: “Completely, otherwise I wouldn’t have even mentioned it. After all, I don’t want to embarrass myself.”

When nothing was found, despite feverish excavation efforts, Hawass took a granite bust of Cleopatra’s lover, Mark Antony, from a museum last year and pretended that he had just pulled it out of the ground.

Nice. That’s the Taposiris Magna site where the headless granite colossus was recently uncovered. Here’s hoping he didn’t just snag that one out of storage too.

6 thoughts on “Zahi Hawass: Egypt’s Avenger of the Pharaohs

  1. I’ve always had a bad vibe about Hawass, I thought it was just me at first but a friend who was on a dig in Egypt a few years back said there have been a quite a number of local rumours. He is in charge of everything and absolute power can corrupt, that plus his monumental ego are not the best of combinations. He is also very dismissive of other Archaeologists theories and ignores or ridicules any evidence from scientists in his own or other fields that contradict his own theories, they tend to stay quite because he can cause huge problems for them in Egypt.

    One of the stories came from a very well respected Archaeologist. Sorry can’t repeat it here but eventually the truth will float to the surface and this salting the digs story fits right in to the whole nefarious tale.

    1. I believe it. The Der Spiegel article also said that archaeologists who hope to work in Egypt basically have to keep their mouths shut because he can shut them down in an instant.

  2. July 21, 2010….Hawass is such a jerk. His new show on the History Channel is fake and overly melodramatic. He treats people horribly, and he presumes he is important. They should all just walk off the site. And what’s with the “I will punish you!” all the time???….does he actually think he is a pharaoh? I have lost all respect for him since this show started.

  3. Dr. Zahi Hawass is Eric Cartman come to life. He is very entertaining to watch. I have been searching for a “You will be punished. I will punish you.” ring tone for my phone.

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