Dead Bodies Threaten Egypt's Pyramids: Report

Illegal cemeteries pushing toward monuments

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 28, 2013 9:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – Some of Egypt's greatest monuments are facing a threat: encroaching, illegally-built cemeteries. More than 1,000 tombs have been established this year on grounds where building is prohibited, the Guardian reports. "They came and took space for about 20 generations," says the head archaeologist at Dahshour, home to pyramids that aren't quite as well-known as their Giza counterparts. But perpetrators say they have little choice: "The old cemetery is full. And there is no other place to bury my family."

Indeed, with 99% of Egypt's population squeezed onto 5.5% of its land, it can be tough to find usable ground. "All the people are born here," says a local clerk. "They died here. They should have the right to be buried here." On the other hand, not everyone is using the sites for memorial purposes. Looting is rampant, with some 500 illegal excavations at Dahshour alone since 2011; it's happening all over the country, says an activist. Egypt's revolution and a weaker government have emboldened people, sources tell the Guardian. "All the people now, we are not afraid of the army or the police or any government," says one tomb-builder. Adds the clerk: "If we want something, we do it."

In this Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 photo, Egyptian laborers work at the new construction site of the illegal expansion of a local cemetery that is seen spreading toward Egypt’s first pyramids and temples.
In this Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 photo, Egyptian laborers work at the new construction site of the illegal expansion of a local cemetery that is seen spreading toward Egypt’s first pyramids and temples.   (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
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