Administrative Prosecution refers 3 Ministry of Antiquities officials to trial over excavation fiasco

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Head of the Administrative Prosecution Rashida Fathallah referred on Saturday three officials at the Ministry of Antiquities to an urgent trial over the process of lifting the eight-metre statue of Psammetich I in Cairo’s district of Matariya earlier in March, which raised public controversy.

The three officials include the head of the Egyptian Antiquities Sector in the Ministry of Antiquities, the head of the Central Administration for Monuments in the Nile Delta, and an Egyptian official heading the Egyptian-German Mission for Archaeological Prospection, in addition to the security man of the Matariya and Heliopolis Antiquities Sector.

According to a statement issued by the Administrative Prosecution, the entity has started an investigation after news in the media and on social media circulated about the discovery of an ancient statue belonging to the 26th dynasty king Psammetich I, in which a heavy construction excavator was used to lift it. Moreover, the statue was left unguarded, as pictures emerged showing children playing on it. The prosecution said that authorities failed to follow the scientific and technical basis in the excavation process.

The Administrative Prosecution has formed a new scientific committee from the Faculty of Antiquities at Cairo University to study the issue and has listened to the testimony of German expert Dietrich Raue, the head of the German Archaeological Mission that participated in the discovery mission, who stated that, on Thursday morning, the mission found two pieces of an ancient statue in the field of Souq Al-Khamis in Matariya. The mission then informed the specialised authorities and asked for pumps to remove water from the statue, as it was covered in clay.

Raue added that the statue was lifted by an excavator, which forms a high danger to the statue, and the technical committee asserted that the first phase of revealing the statue had some mistakes. The prosecution decided to refer them to an urgent trial under accusations of negligence.

Mahmoud Afifi, the head of Ancient Egyptian Antiquities at the Ministry of Antiquities at the time of the incident, had said in a statement in March that the head was extracted using the excavator, but wooden bars and a cork were placed to ensure that no damage would fall on the monument. He added that the extraction was conducted under the supervision of German and Egyptian archaeologists.

In March, the Egyptian-German mission found an ancient statue in the field of Souq Al-Khamis in Matariya, the process of excavating the statue has aroused a storm of mockery and anger among citizens throughout all social media outlets as a result of the way in which it was lifted with an excavator and leaving it unguarded.

The statue, which was found underwater beneath a Cairo slum, was first thought to belong to the Pharaoh Ramses II, who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.

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