Guard Shot Dead by Looters at Archaeological Site in Egypt

The Deir el-Bersha site has been targeted before.

Tomb of Henu at Deir el-Bersha.
Photo: The Dayr al-Barsha Project. .
Excavation at Deir el-Bersha in 2012.<br>Photo: The Dayr al-Barsha Project.

Excavation at Deir el-Bersha in 2012.
Photo: The Dayr al-Barsha Project.

A guard at the Deir el-Bersha archaeological site in Egypt has been shot dead by looters attempting to pillage the site. Two other guards were also injured in the crossfire, and one was admitted to the Minya University Hospital where his condition was deemed “serious.”

The death was confirmed in a statement published on the website of the Dayr al-Barsha Project, a research project based on the site since 2002 and directed by the Egyptology department at Leuven University in Belgium.

On Saturday evening, the research group posted:

We were shocked to be informed today of the death of our ghafir [guard] Ashrawy. As far as our information goes, some antiquities looters were apprehended by Ashrawy and two other guards. In an ensuing exchange of fire, Ashrawy got killed, the two others were injured. Ashrawy has been with us as a guard since the start of the KU Leuven mission to Dayr al-Barsha. He was a very loyal and gentle man (and, in fact, a gentleman). He would have deserved a better fate. Our thoughts are with his family.

According to the Association of Research into Crimes Against Art (ARCA), which reported the incident this past weekend, a fundraiser to help the family of the slain guard might be in the works.

Tomb of Henu at Deir el-Bersha.<br>Photo: The Dayr al-Barsha Project.

Tomb of Henu at Deir el-Bersha.
Photo: The Dayr al-Barsha Project.

According to ARCA, Deir el-Bersha (also spelled Dayr al-Barsha) is a Coptic village in Middle Egypt located in a hard-to-reach area east of the River Nile, which could suggests the attack had been planned in advance.

Deir el-Bersha houses an important Middle Kingdom necropolis gathering over 39 tombs of governors (nomarchs), including the tomb of Djehutihotep, one of the most powerful nomarchs of the period.

The site is currently closed to the general public because of its frail condition and previous episodes of looting. Only visitors that hold a special authorization and are accompanied by a government official can access the site.

ARCA reports that the site was subjected to looting and extensive destruction in 2015.

Update: The injured guard that had been admitted to the Minya University Hospital passed away on Sunday, ARCA reported. A fundraiser to help the families of the two killed guards has been set up.

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