Egypt‘s oldest pyramid may have been ruined by conservators, a group of heritage campaigners has warned.
The step-shaped pyramid of Djoser, a few miles south of the better-known pyramids of Giza, is more than 4,600 years old and is considered the oldest stone structure of its size in the world.
After a decade of restoration attempts, the outside of the pyramid now looks very different to how it should, and the structure may also have suffered internal damage, according to Egypt’s Heritage Task Force (EHTF), an archaeological pressure group.
Egypt’s antiquities minister, Mamdouh el-Damaty, denies the allegations. EHTF has called for an international inquiry led by Unesco and Iccrom – a champion of global restoration efforts – to determine whether the claims have merit.
“The problem is a very bad procedure of conservation,” said Monica Hanna, a spokesman for the taskforce. “If you compare images of the pyramid from 10 years ago, it looks very different. The colour and texture is very different.”
Recent photographs confirm that the base of the pyramid has been given a jarring contemporary appearance, and now looks markedly smoother and lighter than it did a decade ago.
As archaeologists rather than conservators, EHTF admit they cannot themselves judge the quality of the external work, nor the allegations of internal collapse. But they want an independent panel of Egyptian and international restorers “to tell us if the work was good or bad and how we can save the pyramid”, says Hanna.
Damaty has said the restoration is of the highest quality, and says attempts to suggest otherwise originate from supporters of the ousted president Mohamed Morsi. “There is nothing wrong, the company is doing a very professional job,” Damaty said this week. “I went to the place which they said was collapsing. I went 28 metres down and I came out again without any rock falling on me.”
Campaigners argue that the construction company commissioned to restore the pyramid, el-Shorbagy, is too inexperienced to be involved in the project – allegations that led to the project’s suspension two years ago.
El-Shorbagy could not be reached by telephone for comment. Damaty said the company had been given the all-clear by his deputies, and could restart work again. “The manager of the antiquities sector went to see what was going on, and after checking the operations at the pyramids he declared that the restoration was one of the best in the world,” he said.
Source : theguardian