It is immediately obvious to anyone who breaks away
from the tourist trail and starts to explore Thebes
that the Necropolis is in deep trouble. For centuries the plaster
and reliefs of the tombs has been hacked away for sale to tourists,
but now that in many cases there is nothing left to sell the
tombs are being used for everything from communal toilets, as
with at least one example in the Valley of the Kings, to Rubbish
dumps as shown here with the tomb of Pere from the reign
of Thutmose 4.
The amount of Rubbish is in danger of choking the Necropolis.
Many of the closed tombs in the valley of the Kings such as KV55
are already having their entrances slowly filled with water bottles
and plastic bags.
This artwork survives at the pillared entrance to one of the
many tombs which overlook the Nile. This decoration is virtually
all that remains accessible in this particular tomb, but if you
stand and look at it for too long some child will offer to hack
a bit out and sell you it.
Anyone walking through the villages on the west bank will be
offered an array of artifacts by the locals. Most of these are
obvious, and not particularly good, fakes but some of them do
appear genuine. And as if the artifacts weren't enough there now
appears to be a lot of plaster and relief fragments for sale.
Again many of these are fake, but some of them are almost certainly
genuine and with each fragment hacked out and sold another archaeological
clue could be lost.
So what can be done ? The Egyptian government has been trying
for years to move the villagers away to another area, but they
have resisted due no doubt in part to the riches under their houses.
I am sure that an area such as this, which is guaranteed as many
visitors as it can handle could be run in such a way that enough
money is raised to maintain the monuments and also keep the place
clean. At the moment there doesn't appear to be much evidence
of what the money raised through entrance fees is used for.
At the moment the entrance fee for many of the sites seems
very low. Three tombs in the Valley of the Kings costs LE20 (about
£4 or $6). Admission to the mortuary temples is similarly
very cheap. I'm sure that the majority of the visitors to the
area would gladly pay a little more if they could see it was being
used to benefit the area and it's inhabitants.
If you would like to help conservation
work in the Theban Necropolis, check out this