Friday, November 16, 2007

He's Unbelievably Energetic and He's Raised the Profile of Egyptology Enormously. He Gives It Drama and Cachet ...
t is difficult to overestimate the influence that Dr Zahi Hawass, Egypt's secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, wields over his country's stupendously rich ancient heritage. According to Dr John Taylor, assistant keeper at the British Museum, "he's an incredibly influential figure. Nothing happens in Egyptology without his knowledge or support."

Hawass is the outspoken, grandstanding, inflammatory public face of the Tutankhamun exhibition that opened yesterday at the O2 in London and has been touring cities in the US for the past two years. He is a celebrity, particularly in the United States, where he has won an Emmy for his broadcasting on archeology. His personal website, at which scholars might arch an eyebrow, contains an official fan club section adorned with a dozen photographs of himself. In a couple he sports an Indiana Jones-style hat, copies of which are on sale at the King Tut gift shop, displayed beneath a broadly grinning, larger than life picture of the man himself.

Hawass is a shameless self-promoter; but few doubt that he is also a hugely successful promoter of Egypt's antiquities. "He's unbelievably energetic, and he's raised the profile of the subject enormously," said Taylor. "He gives the subject drama and cachet, rather, in fact, as Howard Carter did." Tim Schadla-Hall, reader in public archeology at University College London, added: "He stokes controversy, and that's a good thing. Archeology is about controversy, it's not about single answers." He is also a gifted money-raiser: the Tutankhamun tour, according to Hawass, will bring in $140m (£68m) for Egypt's antiquities: much-needed cash in the devastatingly expensive game of conservation, preservation and museum display.

Pretty good article.