Famed Egyptologist and Minister of Antiquities in Egypt, Zahi Hawass, is no longer serving in his governmental post. Whether he left or was fired is uncertain – sources are reporting both scenarios. The recent unrest in Egypt and the hostility towards the former Mubarak regime made his position tenuous. His close relationship with the Dictatorship made him a more polarizing and controversial figure in recent days.
Hawass is no newcomer to controversy. He has regularly been criticized for his fame-seeking and attention getting antics. His scholarship has also been called into question. His position became even more controversial as his ties to the Mubarak regime were questioned as well as his ability to truly conserve and protect Egypt’s antiquities.
Read more about the controversy surrounding his leaving office in this MSNBC article.
Most visitors of Central Park do not realize that they have a piece of Ancient History in the midst. In the 19th century, Egypt made a gift of Cleopatra’s Needle, one of three identical obelisks, to the Cities of New York, Paris, and London. The obelisks themselves are not related to the famed Queen, but rather were inscribed during the reign of Thutmose III.
Recently, Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt’s Council of Antiquities (and a controversial figure in his own right) condemned the city of New York for ill-keeping of the artifact – arguing that the heavy pollution and acid rain of the city has eroded the inscriptions and even suggesting that Egypt should confiscate the monument. New York has responded by pointing out the instability of Egypt and recent lootings of its museums and monuments as well as denying the accusation that New York City’s pollution is having any negative effect on the monument.
Anyone who knows me is aware that I am not a big fan of Zahi Hawass (Egypt’s Current Minister of State Antiquities). His scholarship is questionable at best, he panders to media sources, and his misogyny and anti-semetism are palpable.
“Zahi Hawass, the bombastic, clownish pseudo-archaeologist who has tyrannized, bullied, and manipulated Egyptologists and Egyptian Villagers alike for years now, today officially accepted President Hosni Mubarak’s appointment as Minister of State for Antiquities.”
While his position remains tentative in Egypt’s new government, he is still the most recognized face in Egyptian Archaeology today. I have seen only a handful of documentaries on Egyptology that have not at the least included, at the least, a a quote or an interview of Mr. Hawass.
This month’s Biblical Archaeology Review includes a lengthy and candid interview with archaeology’s most controversial living figure. You can read the entirety of the interview here. I’d be interested in hearing your views on this very public political and academic figure.