Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hamas and Gaza antiquities

HAMAS is taking some interest in antiquities in Gaza according to the Christian Science Monitor:
When laborers stumbled on an ancient hoard of 1,300 silver coins and the walls of a 3,300-year-old city in the southern town of Rafah in January, it was a fresh reminder that the tiny territory maintains a rich past.


"Gaza is very small geographically, but in terms of archaeology, it is very large," says the Hamas minister of tourism and antiquities, Mohammed al-Agha. "Gaza was at the crossroads of Africa, Asia, and Europe, and there is a great accumulation of human civilization here. But we don't have our own specialists so we can't manage the sites professionally."


Construction contractors like Jawhdat Khodary, who opened a private museum in a beachfront space in 2008, would pay laborers and local fishermen for any artifacts they found, preserving at least 3,000 pieces.


But Hamas says it is making both the regulation and preservation of historical sites a priority. The tourism and antiquities ministry inaugurated in January an artifacts museum in Gaza City – in an Ottoman-era governor's residence – and took control of the Rafah coin find.

Mr. Agha says the ministry also plans to cooperate with Gaza's Islamic University to expand courses on archaeology. Hamas hired a new guard for the remains of the 3rd-century monastery that Mr. Mubaid says is Gaza's most important site.

But Mr. Khodary charges Hamas with censoring some of his finds. He claims Hamas asked him to put away tiny menorahs – and a small statue of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, whose gown was deemed too revealing.
The censorship (noted earlier here) is kind of pathetic, but the new museum and the efforts on the Rafah coin hoard are encouraging.

For that coin hoard see here. Mr. Khodary's museum has also been mentioned here and here.