It is not as dramatic as the collapse of an ancient Egyptian dynasty, but the abrupt fall of Zahi Hawass is sending ripples around the planet. The archaeologist who has been in charge of Egypt’s antiquities for nearly a decade has been abruptly sacked in an overhaul of the country’s cabinet.
The antipathy toward Hawass in Egypt may be difficult to grasp in the West, where he is typically found on American television, fearlessly tracking down desert tombs, unearthing mummies and bringing new life to Egypt’s dusty past. But in Egypt he has been a target of anger among young protesters who helped depose President Hosni Mubarak in February. Hawass had been accused of corruption, shoddy science and having uncomfortably close connections with the deposed president and first lady⎯all of which he has vociferously denied. Many young archaeologists also are demanding more jobs and better pay⎯and they complain Hawass has failed to deliver. “He was the Mubarak of antiquities,” said Nora Shalaby, a young Egyptian archaeologist who has been active in the revolution.
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.
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.