New highway threatens one of Egypt’s greatest historical sites

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New highway threatens one of Egypt’s greatest historical sites

Post by newcastle »

MEMPHIS, Egypt (Reuters) -

Egypt is building two highways across the pyramids plateau outside Cairo, reviving and expanding a project that was suspended in the 1990s after an international outcry.

Critics say they could cause irrevocable damage to one of the world’s most important heritage sites. Authorities say they will be built with care and improve transport links, connecting new urban developments and bypassing central Cairo’s congestion.

Some Egyptologists and conservationists say the highways will disrupt the integrity of the pyramids plateau, pave over unexplored archaeological sites, generate pollution that could corrode monuments, produce litter and expose closed areas packed with hidden archaeological treasures to looting.

The state press centre referred a Reuters request for further comment on the plans to a communications advisor of the tourism and antiquities ministry, who could not be reached.

“The road cuts through archaeologically unexplored cemeteries of the little-known 13th Dynasty, in walking distance of the pyramids of Pepi II and Khendjer and the Mastabat el-Fara’un”, said an Egyptologist who knows the area.

The person was among six Egyptologists Reuters spoke to. Most of them declined to be named for fear of losing clearance to handle antiquities.

Memphis, said to have been founded in about 3,000 B.C. when Egypt was united into a single country, was eclipsed but not abandoned when Alexander the Great moved the capital to Alexandria in 331 B.C.

It extended more than 6 square kilometres, the Nile valley’s largest ancient settlement site.

The new road comes close to the ancient city’s commercial districts, its harbour walls and the former site of an ancient Nilometer, used to measure the height of the annual flood, said David Jeffreys, a British Egyptologist who has been working on Memphis for the Egypt Exploration Society since 1981.

It also endangers a Roman wall that once bordered the Nile that Jeffreys said few people were aware of.

“Memphis has long been neglected, even by Egyptologists, as it is a complicated site to excavate,” another Egyptologist said. “But it is enormously rich, bursting with temples, archives, administrative buildings and industrial areas.” ... q8H7mtnjLU

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