Hawass plays hardball with the Louvre and wins

It only took them 2 days to cave completely when he flexed his muscles. Here’s what happened. On Wednesday, Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, dramatically announced that Egypt was cutting all ties to the Louvre. No more collaborative dig in Saqqara. No more Louvre curators making speeches in Cairo. No more nothing.

The bones of contention were 4 fragmentary steles chipped off the walls of the 3200-year-old tomb of noble cleric Tetaki in the 80’s and bought by Louvre in 2000 and 2003. Hawass said he’s asked for them to be returned before, most recently sending the museum a letter 7 months ago, but has gotten either refusals or the silent treatment in return, so he whipped out the big gun.

The French Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand immediately stepped into the fray and assured everyone that the Louvre had acted in “good faith” when it purchased the stolen funerary inscriptions, and they were just waiting for a special investigative committee to confirm the pieces were stolen is all.

Today, Mitterand convoked the National Scientific Committee of the Museums of France and in an unanimous vote of the 35 experts, the committee agreed that the pieces had indeed, quel dommage, been stolen and will be returned to Egypt without delay.

That’s a matter of weeks, in slightly more concrete terms. Egypt is holding them to it. All ties to the Louvre will remain suspended until the steles are safely back in the motherland.

Tekati’s tomb was discovered by Lord Carnarvon — who along with Howard Carter would later uncover King Tutankhamen’s tomb — in 1908. The tomb was quickly closed to keep out looters (that worked out great, didn’t it?), and only rarely re-opened for scientific study.

Last year, Egyptian archaeologists reinvestigated the tomb and found the theft damage. That’s when they started taking a good hard look at the pieces the Louvre had bought.

Hawass pwns the Louvre