Archaeology:Egypt,Naples show on search for the Land of Punt

New Cairo government sparks uncertainty on excavations' future

11 April, 16:36

(ANSAmed) - NAPLES, APRIL 11 - Archaeologists are caught between the search for the mythical Land of Punt and the preoccupation for how the archaeological surveys might progress after the change in Egypt's political scene. The study of the distant past is linked to the present in the activities of the archaeologists of the "Orientale" University in Naples who today have inaugurated their own museum with the first exhibition which will remain open until the end of April. The official site for the museum will be opened this summer.

At the centre of the exhibition named "Mersa/Wadi Gawasis, a majestic port on the Red Sea", are 27 panels which show the excavations carried out by the Neapolitan mission, who alongside the University of Boston, have been working for several years in the archaeological site in Egypt. The panels, previously on show in Cairo, have been updated with new material. As Andrea Manzo, curator of the exhibition and Professor of Nubian Antiquity at the "Orientale" University explains, "it has objects from Uzbekistan and Iran but also from Sudan, Eritrea and the opposite coast of the Red Sea, from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The University is bringing forward their Red Sea project and have also highlighted the Egyptian links with the Campania region, as traces have been found of merchants from the ancient roman region of Campania Felix who in the late republican and early imperial period were travelling into the Egyptian desert, sometimes all the way down to the Red Sea".

The exhibition inaugurates the start of the museum's activities which, as the dean of the "Orientale" University, Lida Viganoni explains: "It opens today with a first display of objects which have been conserved during the years but there is still a lot of material which I count on recuperating and hope to exhibit in this public museum". The Islamic finds which have been put on show come from acquisitions in the seventies which were made as a matter of fact with the purpose of a University museum in mind. They are Islamic ceramics originating from Iran and dating back to the X and XIV centuries and are of different types, some of the objects containing inscriptions or pseudo-inscriptions.

Amongst the exhibits which will be part of the museum are also Islamic bronzes, Afghan sculptures and Egyptian tablets.

Guiding the excavations on the Red Sea is professor Rodolfo Fattovich: "The surveys", he explains "have consented us to ascertain that the Egyptians left from the coastal area of Mersa and Wadi Gawasis towards the Land of Punt, a legendary place from which Egyptians would acquire spices, incense, myrrh but also gold and other exotic products. We now know that the Egyptians sailed all over the Red Sea and traversed it over to the Arab peninsula although we have reason to believe that the spot probably lies in correspondence with the coastal regions of present-day Eritrea". The excavations continue despite uncertainty due to the current political situation in Egypt. Fattovich explains that "the possibility of continuing with our digging doesn't depend so much on us, even if our funding is decreasing rapidly, but it has to do with the political situation. We still have to determine what, where and if the new government enables us to dig and is in any case happy to allow foreigners to continue excavating in the country".(ANSAmed).