A Bleg about Egypt and Archaeology

Anyone know of archeologists reading the tea leaves on the implications for Zahi Hawass being made a cabinet minister in Egypt? Hawass is the telegenic spokesman for Egypt’s rich trove of antiquities, regularly featuring in TV shows about mummies and pyramids, and undoubtedly helping keep tourists flowing to Egypt (tourism is the major national industry).

In the political shakeup over the weekend, Mubarak used his nominal political power to create a new cabinet position for Hawass: Minister of Antiquities.

On one hand, I’d think archaeologists would be glad to see their field getting such political representation. On the other hand, I don’t gather that Hawass is especially popular with academics in the field, and I can’t imagine any of Mubarak’s cabinet ministers retaining much political influence when the revolution reaches its conclusion. Some may be allowed to stay in the country, but can anyone imagine them keeping their posts?

So the bleg: why would Hawass agree to tie his reputation to Mubarak’s, and what implications do people forsee this having for Egyptian archaeology generally and Hawass specifically when a new regime arrives?


  1. #1 Gurdur
    February 2, 2011

    1) “why would Hawass agree to tie his reputation to Mubarak’s”

    Hawass is a beneficiary of the old system; he first became a cabinet minister in 2009. He owes his position to Mubarak’s patronage. Unsurprisingly, he’s sticking close to Mubarak.

    2) He has the reputation of being personally rather unlikeable. I have no idea how real that is.

    3) It has zero real implications for Egyptian archeology; archeology will continue to be a very important feature of Egyptian economics, and thus of politics.

    Hawass himself is a fair bit of a fundamentalist Muslim, and anti-semitic; but his views don’t differ all that much from the norm in Egypt.

  2. #2 Gurdur
    February 2, 2011

    I’ll add to my above comment: I did some checking around, and Hawass seems to have rather an ill reputation indeed — including among fellow archeologists and Egyptologists. He’s seen as overall simply milking antiquities for all they’re worth; and on the science front, he’s more than dubious, with some rather odd attitudes and dictates that come over as rather unscientific.

  3. #3 Phillip IV
    February 2, 2011

    why would Hawass agree to tie his reputation to Mubarak’s

    Hawass’ reputation essentially consists of being a glorified tourism official, self-promoting Indiana-Jones-wannabe and opponent of any kind of egyptological research that is not tied to a short list of highly marketable pharaonic names or disagrees with Muslim religious sensitivities. His fate is tied to Mubarak’s whether he wants it or not, there is absolutely no way he could hang on to any kind of influential position without political protection.

    Few people, save his media friends, would be sad to see him go, even if there’s no guarantee a successor would be any better.

  4. #4 Physicalist
    February 2, 2011

    My five-year-old is a big fan of Zahi Hawass; that’s all I know.

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