Archaeologists Slam Giza Pyramid Restoration Project

Archaeologists are condemning Egypt’s new plan to restore the smallest of the three Pyramids of Giza on the outskirts of Cairo. The three-year project, unveiled in a January 25 Facebook video posted by Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Dr. Mostafa Waziry, involves covering the structure’s weathered facade with granite blocks, a move some scholars have derided as a violation of accepted archaeological standards.

The 213-foot-tall Menkaure pyramid was constructed in the 3rd millennium BCE as a funerary complex for the pharaoh of the same name. The structure is the youngest of the three Pyramids of Giza, which comprise a complex that also includes the Great Sphinx.

The Menkaure pyramid was originally built with limestone and encased with granite blocks, which fell off over time. The current restoration project promises to use Ancient Egyptian-era granite lodged in the sand below the pyramid, but scholars have raised concerns about what they see as the historical inaccuracy of this method. 

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A screenshot of an Egyptian Council of Ministers video showing the new project (screenshot Elaine Velie/Hyperallergic on Facebook)

Egyptologist Monica Hanna, dean of Egypt’s College of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport, published a lengthy condemnation of the initiative on Facebook on Tuesday, January 31, garnering 64 signatures in support. In addition to citing concerns about the pyramid’s ability to structurally withstand the restoration, Hanna questioned the use of blocks buried at the site, which are unpolished.

“These blocks are fragments that did not fall from the pyramid itself but were left by the pyramid’s workmen as unfinished business,” Hanna wrote. “No archaeological or historical evidence exists about their original position on the pyramid.”

Hanna also detailed the project’s divergence from scholarly norms, citing the International Council on Monuments and Sites’s 1964 Venice Charter mandating that restoration designs be “based on respect for original material and authentic documents” and “stop at the point where conjecture begins.” The charter also states that these initiatives must be preceded by archaeological and historical scholarship, and Hanna notes that the team behind the Giza project never published a peer-reviewed study.

Hanna’s sentiment was echoed by the former Dean of the Faculty of Archeology at Cairo University Dr. Mohamed Hamza, who also posted a long Facebook statement criticizing the initiative.

“The disagreement is more than methodology or application but rather about the fundamental principles and axioms of archaeological work that all researchers, scholars, and archaeologists agree upon,” Hanna wrote. “These Egyptian antiquities belong to all Egyptians. They are not the exclusive property of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, or archaeological missions, and we all have the right to know in detail through societal and scientific dialogue about what is happening to our heritage.”

Dr. Mostafa Waziry and Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities have not responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment. 

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