"When are we going to stop the absurdity in the management of Egyptian heritage?"
A project set to restore the granite exterior of one of the pyramids at Giza has caused backlash among experts after footage of work on the archaeological site was shared on social media, Agence France-Presse reports.
The video was posted on Facebook on Friday by Mostafa Wazira, secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. In it, workers can be seen excavating the ground in front of the Menkaure pyramid, the smallest of the three pyramids at Giza, revealing a portion of its granite-covered base once buried beneath the sand.
Soon enough, experts angered by the sight of the ongoing renovations responded to the video, criticizing the project's ambitions for its "absurdity."
"Impossible!" wrote Egyptologist Monica Hanna, as quoted by AFP. "The only thing missing was to add tiling to the pyramid of Menkaure! When are we going to stop the absurdity in the management of Egyptian heritage?"
"All international principles on renovations prohibit such interventions," she added, calling on archaeologists to "mobilize immediately."
Block by Block
The joint Egyptian-Japanese effort, which Wazira hailed as "the project of the century," focuses on the Menkaure pyramid's crumbling casing of granite blocks.
Today, according to Wazira, only seven rows — or "courses," in the terminology— of the granite casing are left standing. Over the next three years, the project aims to restore the pyramid's casing to its original height of 16 courses using some of its now fallen blocks that are heaped around its base.
Not all experts take such a hard line. Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo, said the project could work as long as they only use the original stones, as quoted by Business Insider — but it's unclear if that will be the case.
No matter what steps are taken, though, the restoration of ancient monuments will always be a touchy subject among archaeologists and the general public alike. Some lay observers have likened the project to "[straightening] the Tower of Pisa" — though they should know that's pretty much what Italian engineers have already done to stop it from toppling over.
Indeed, many old structures around the world — from the Great Wall to the Notre Dame — have undergone restoration or repairs of some kind. Nearly all have incited backlash over the same eternal question: how far should our efforts to preserve the past go?
For now, the outrage over the Menkaure project has been heated enough to give officials pause. The Telegraph reports that the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities has formed a committee to examine the project, and its verdict will determine whether it will continue or become history itself.
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