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Twitter Users React to Ancient Egyptian Tomb Fraud in Beni Suef

February 21, 2023
Photo Credit: Lovin.Co

Over the weekend, Egyptian Twitter was rocked by the news of a fake pharaonic tomb built by a group of fugitive suspects in Beni Sueif, supposedly with the aim of defrauding antiquities dealers.

Twitter users’ responses ranged from incredulity, to laughter, and even praise for the scammers.

On 15 February, Egyptian police personnel discovered what looked like ancient Egyptian artifacts near a two-meter deep hole in the ground, in a desert area outside of the town of El-Hayba, Beni Sueif.

Beneath the ground were three chambers decorated with murals of hieroglyphics and other ancient Egyptian symbols, and containing many more artifacts.

A committee formed by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities examined the site and determined that the murals, along with the artifacts found in the chambers, were in fact not at all antiquities, but reproductions no more than a year or two old.

Egyptian television network DMC shared a video where Secretary-General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, visited the site himself to assert the inauthenticity of the tomb. The video showed sarcophagi made of fiber; artifacts made of plaster, spray-painted golden; and paraphernalia seemingly purchased from souvenir shops.

Following investigations, the prosecution concluded that the identified suspects had built the fake tomb to defraud would-be antiquities traffickers. A warrant was issued for their arrest on 17 February, and the manufactured tomb has since been destroyed by authorities.

On Twitter, several observers poked fun at the absurdity of the crime:

Translation: Selling [contraband] sneakers? No, man, we should build a pharaonic tomb.

Translation: A pharaonic tomb dating back to the year 2022. Incredible scam.

Translation: Even tombs can be contraband now! A group of Egyptians built a fake pharaonic tomb for the purpose of scamming!

Some users felt that the perpetrators should be punished for their crime, along with the dealers to whom they sold the fake artifacts:

Translation: And as El-Lemby [a comical Egyptian film character] said, will you punish them for running or for failing? Outlaws scamming other outlaws, they should all be tried.

Translation: The weird part is that antiquities thieves turned themselves in to the authorities and acknowledged that they were thieves in exchange for the arrest of these creative scammers.

Others, on the other hand, like the below user, commended the scammers for punishing those engaged in the illegal trade of antiquities and questioned if they should be punished at all:

Translation: The people who made the fake pharaonic tomb are very creative. Even if they are scammers, they’re scamming antiquities traffickers. This means they should be praised both for their creativity and for scamming the antiquities traffickers, not jailed.

Many more described the scammers as talented, clever, and praised their efforts in building what was largely perceived as an accurate reproduction:

Translation: I want to meet the people who made a fake pharaonic tomb — how clever are they?

Translation: Brilliant minds! A group of young people from Beni Sueif built a pharaonic tomb and got someone to paint pharaonic symbols on the wall. They bought some souvenirs from Khan El Khalili and put them in the tomb. They got some people and sold them the artifacts claiming that they were pharaonic ones, and now the police are looking for them.

Translation: While we were having fun, a group of hard-working young people from Beni Suef spent a year building a fake pharaonic tomb underground with all the corresponding artifacts. Not only this, they painted the walls and decorated them with pharaonic drawings. Over and above, they added some plaster statues and Chinese souvenirs and some pharaonic accessories.

Translation: If it were up to me, I would put those responsible for this in charge of beautifying cities. The guy’s hands should be wrapped in silk.

In a call to television network, CBC, however, Waziri explained that the manufactured tomb was in fact not an accurate reproduction of real ancient Egyptian burial sites. While perhaps able to trump the untrained eye, he noted that its inauthenticity was quickly apparent to specialists.

As an example, he pointed to the fact that some of the images seen on the walls were portrayals associated with the Old Kingdom, and others, with the New Kingdom, all most likely copied from drawing books. He further noted that the entrance to the tomb itself was unlike those seen in ancient burial sites.

In his message to viewers, Waziri noted that antiquities scams are common, and condemned the actions of both fraudsters and dealers, saying, “As long as there are greedy people, there will be scammers.”

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