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a silent salute: The audience "claps" at Joke Night during Deaf Awareness week. Click Arts&Life for a link to story. / Photo by Leah Lopshire

Today's word on journalism

December 16, 2008

As part of my own personal "war on Christmas" (which a Utah state senator has offered legislation to outlaw), the WORD celebrates the season by going on hiatus until January. May all out days be merry and bright, and here’s to a safe, healthy and saner New Year. HoHoHo!

Empty Minds: "Of all the people expressing their mental vacuity, none has a better excuse for an empty head than the newspaperman: If he pauses to restock his brain, he invites onrushing deadlines to trample him flat. Broadcasting the contents of empty minds is what most of us do most of the time, and nobody more relentlessly than I."

--Russell Baker, Pulitzer-winning columnist

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Feedback and suggestions --printable and otherwise --always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Returning Egypt's antiquarian treasure remains a problem

VANISHING HISTORY: Defaced gods on an Egyptian wall. / Photo by Bethany Crane

By Bethany Crane

November 25, 2008 | Small boys surrounded us, picking up stones that littered the ground around the hillside tomb entrances. Showing us their finds they were eager to search for whatever we wanted. The boys were descendents of ancient tomb robbers from the village of Gurneh, and they still explore these hills today, collecting what remains of the treasure left behind by the ancient dead.

The practice of selling off artifacts to tourists and museums has been a long standing one that is embedded with controversy. It is hard to control how many artifacts leave a country illegally, especially when not all of them are accounted for. By not knowing what is being taken out we lose precious information that can only be obtained by seeing the objects in situ.

Most of the monuments that I visited during my travels in Egypt showed evidence of vandalism and damage. Some were defaced for moral reasons because they were believed to be vulgar, others were removed entirely to be sold on the illegal antiquities market.

TREASURE: A gold-capped obelisk. / Photo by Bethany Crane

By selling off pieces of their country's history they are making some immediate income for things that they know there are plenty of. In most cases the artifacts were sold for quite a bit less than their real value, and generally left the country. Egypt has vast amounts of artwork, statuary, and tombs, some of which we don't even know about, but there certainly isn't a lack of evidence of the ancient inhabitants.

The biggest rub for the Egyptians are the pieces that left the country before organizations like Dr. Zahi Hawass work very hard to preserve what remains, and get back as much as they reasonably can from other countries. If people make a conscientious effort to make sure the provenance of artifacts they purchase are legitimate, especially through online auction sites, we can make a contribution to preventing a rich heritage from being lost.


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