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February 20, 2016

Notice: Two sentry guards killed at the archaeological site at Deir el-Bersha in Egypt

ARTICLE UPDATED - 22 February 2016

Two archaeological site guards on duty at the archaeological site at at Deir el-Bersha in Egypt have been killed after unknown assailants apparently opened fire while at the site to loot archaeological material.

Sentry A'srāwy Kāmel Jād, alternatively known as "Wāa'r" was a resident of the village of Deir Abu Hanas in Mālwi.  He had been a long standing sentry at the archaeological preserve.  A'srāwy was killed on site.

A second guard, Ali Khalaf Shāker, also a resident of Deir Abu Hanas in Mālwi was transferred in serious condition to Minya University Hospital.   Ali died of his injuries on Sunday, February 21, 2016.

The Coptic village of Deir el-Bersha is located on the east bank of the Nile, south of Hermopolis, what is known today as El-Ashmunein.  It sits on the opposite side of the Nile river from Mallawi. The archaeological site is part of the governorate of Minya. 

The site of Dayr al-Barsha in Middle Egypt has been known since ancient times for its limestone quarries and its renowned Middle Kingdom nomarchal tombs.  The site's necropolis is located at the entrance of Wadi Deir el-Nakhla, in a remote area east of the Nile that is difficult to get to.

Individuals passing through the site do not do so casually. Given the fragility of the site and previous issues of looting, the area is closed to the general public and it is only with  special authorisation, that persons can visit, accompanied by a government official. 

The remoteness of the site is evidenced by the attached Youtube video. 

The site's most important tombs are those of the Nomarchs of the XV Nome, the Nome of the Hare, of Upper Egypt during the XI and XII Dynasty. The tomb of Djehutihotep is the most well studied of the 39 tombs documented at the necropolis. 

Last year, on May 11, 2015, Egyptian Archaeologist Monica Hanna reported looting and extensive destruction to the tomb of Djehutihotep.  According to reports by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium) archaeology mission, which has been working at Deir el-Barsha in Middle Egypt under the direction of Harco Willems since 2002, a wall relief fragment had been hacked out from the 3,850 year-old tomb which measured 30 by 50 centimeters (12 by 20 inches.)

Pictured below are two sets of comparison images, on showing relief decoration on the left, including the head of a seated figure which were removed.  The second image shows a small triangular segment removed.  Some news reports also suggested that the dig house had also been looted in 2015. 

Image Credit: Dayr al-Barsha Project

ARCA strongly discourages the purchase of antiquities without a solid collection history; this includes anything made of stone or pottery likely to be more than 100 years old.  We urge collectors to buy the work of contemporary artisans using traditional methods and materials, and to not promote the trade in blood antiquities.