Zahi Hawass: Egyptologist, archaeologist (1947-) | Biography
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Zahi Hawass
Egyptologist, archaeologist

Zahi Hawass

Zahi Hawass
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Egyptologist, archaeologist
A.K.A. Zahi A. Hawass
Is Anthropologist Archaeologist Academic Egyptologist Politician Scientist
From Egypt
Field Education Science Social science Politics
Gender male
Birth 28 May 1947, Damietta, Egypt
Age 76 years
Star sign Gemini
Zahi Hawass
The details (from wikipedia)


Zahi Hawass (Arabic: زاهي حواس‎; born May 28, 1947) is an Egyptian archaeologist, Egyptologist, and former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs. He has also worked at archaeological sites in the Nile Delta, the Western Desert, and the Upper Nile Valley.

Early life

Hawass was born in a small village near Damietta, Egypt. Although he originally dreamed of becoming an attorney, he obtained a bachelor of arts degree in Greek and Roman Archaeology from Alexandria University in Alexandria, Egypt in 1967. In 1979, Hawass earned a diploma in Egyptology from Cairo University. Hawass then worked at the Great Pyramids as an inspector—a combination of administrator and archaeologist. When he was 33 years old, Hawass was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to attend the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia to study Egyptology, earning a master of arts degree in Egyptology and Syro-Palestinian Archaeology in 1983, and his PhD in Egyptology in 1987 from the Graduate Group in the Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World (AAMW), concentrating on "The Funerary Establishments of Khufu, Khafra and Menkaura During the Old Kingdom."


Early career

After 1988, Hawass taught Egyptian archaeology, history and culture at the American University in Cairo, and the University of California, Los Angeles. Hawass has described his efforts as trying to help institute a systematic program for the preservation and restoration of historical monuments, while training Egyptians to improve their expertise on methods of excavation, retrieval and preservation.

Chief Inspector at Giza

Hawass was appointed to the position of Chief Inspector of the Giza Pyramid Plateau, but left the position in 1993—according to Hawass, a resignation. Hawass was reinstated as Chief Inspector in early 1994. In 1998, Hawass was appointed as director of the Giza Plateau, and in 2002 as Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Claimed discoveries

As his biography at the National Geographic Explorers webpage notes, he states that he is

responsible for many recent discoveries, including the tombs of the pyramid builders at Giza and the Valley of the Golden Mummies at Bahariya. At Giza, he also uncovered the satellite pyramid of Khufu. In 2005, as part of the National Geographic Society-sponsored Egyptian Mummy Project to learn more about patterns of disease, health, and mortality in ancient Egypt, he led a team that CT scanned the mummy of King Tutankhamun. His team is continuing to CT scan mummies, both royal and private, and hopes to solve some of the mysteries surrounding the lives and deaths of such important figures as Hatshepsut and Nefertiti.

Obama visit

Zahi Hawass and Barack Obama, June 2009

When U.S. President Barack Obama was in Cairo in June 2009, Hawass gave him personal tours of the sites of ancient Egypt. At the end of 2009, he was promoted by President Hosni Mubarak to the post of Vice Minister of Culture.

2011 protest vandalism

On January 29, 2011, in the midst of the Egyptian protests of that year, Hawass arrived at the Egyptian Museum to find that a number of cases had been broken into and a number of antiquities damaged, so police were brought in to secure the museum. According to Andrew Lawler, reporting for Science, Hawass "faxed a colleague in Italy that 13 cases were destroyed. 'My heart is broken and my blood is boiling,' the… archaeologist lamented."

Hawass later told The New York Times that thieves looking for gold broke 70 objects, including two sculptures of Tutankhamun, and took two skulls from a research lab, before being stopped as they left the museum.

Minister of Antiquities

He was appointed Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, a newly created cabinet post, by Mubarak on January 31, 2011 as part of a cabinet shake-up during the 2011 Egyptian protests. A press release including a statement from Hawass stated that he "will continue excavating, writing books, and representing his country," ensuring that archaeological sites in Egypt were being safeguarded and looted objects returned. Regarding the Egyptian Museum looting, he said that "The museum was dark and the nine robbers did not recognise the value of what was in the vitrines. They opened thirteen cases, threw the seventy objects on the ground and broke them, including one Tutankhamun case, from which they broke the statue of the king on a panther. However, the broken objects can all be restored, and we will begin the restoration process this week." Hawass rejected comparisons with the looting of antiquities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On February 13, Mahmoud Kassem of Bloomberg reported Hawass as saying that "18 artifacts, including statues of King Tutankhamun," were stolen from the Egyptian Museum in January; Kassem, paraphrasing Hawass, continues, "The missing objects include 11 wooden shabti statuettes from Yuya, a gilded wooden statue of Tutankhamun carried by a goddess and a statue of Nefertiti making offerings."

Egyptian state television reported that Hawass called upon Egyptians not to believe the “lies and fabrications” of the Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya satellite television channels. Hawass later said “They should give us the opportunity to change things, and if nothing happens they can march again. But you can’t bring in a new president now, in this time. We need Mubarak to stay and make the transition.” On March 3, 2011 he resigned after a list was posted on his personal website of dozens of sites across Egypt that were looted during the 2011 protests.

Hawass was reappointed Minister of Antiquities by then-Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, On March 30, 2011 a tweet was posted stating "I am very happy to be the Minister of Antiquities once again!" but resigned on July 17, 2011, after Sharaf informed him he would not be continuing in the position. According to opinion report from an Egyptian commentator in The Guardian, Hawass was "sacked".

Post-ministerial positions

Hawass has since begun working as a lecturer in Egypt and all around the world, and promoting Egypt's tourism globally in cooperation with the country's Ministry of Tourism. He also writes weekly articles in various newspapers and magazines, and continues working as an archaeologist and consultant.


Hawass has written and co-written many books relating to Egyptology, including The Curse of the Pharaohs: My Adventures with Mummies, and King Tutankhamun: The Treasures from the Tomb, the latter published to coincide with a major exhibition in the UK. He has also written on Tutankhamun for the bi-monthly, UK-based magazine Ancient Egypt.

Hawass is a regular columnist for Egypt Today magazine, and the online historical community, Heritage Key. He has narrated several videos on Egyptology, including a series on Tutankhamun.


Zahi Hawass signing a book in Mexico City, August 2003.

Hawass has appeared on television specials on channels such as the National Geographic Channel, The History Channel and Discovery Channel. Hawass has also appeared in several episodes of the U.S. television show Digging for the Truth, discussing mummies, the pyramids, Tutankhamun, Cleopatra, and Ramesses II. He also appeared on Unsolved Mysteries during a segment on the curse of Tutankhamun's tomb. In 2010, Hawass appeared on a reality-based television show on The History Channel called Chasing Mummies.

Hawass also worked alongside Egyptologist Otto Schaden during the opening of Tomb KV63 in February 2006 – the first intact tomb to be found in the Valley of the Kings since 1922.

In June 2007 Hawass announced that he and a team of experts may have identified the mummy of Hatshepsut, in KV60, a small tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The opening of the sealed tomb was described in 2006 as "one of the most important events in the Valley of the Kings for almost a hundred years."

Hawass hosted and played further creative roles in the documentary Egypt's Ten Greatest Discoveries.


Return of artifacts to Egypt

Hawass spearheaded a movement to return many prominent unique and/or irregularly taken Ancient Egyptian artifacts, such as the Rosetta Stone, the bust of Nefertiti, the Dendera zodiac ceiling painting from the Dendera Temple, the bust of Ankhhaf (the architect of the Khafra Pyramid), the faces of Amenhotep III's tomb at the Louvre Museum, the Luxor Temple's obelisk at the Place de la Concorde and the statue of Hemiunu, nephew of the Pharaoh Khufu, builder of the largest pyramid, to Egypt from collections in various other countries. In July 2003 the Egyptians requested the return of the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum. Hawass, as Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo, told the press, "If the British want to be remembered, if they want to restore their reputation, they should volunteer to return the Rosetta Stone because it is the icon of our Egyptian identity." Referring to antiquities at the British Museum, Hawass said “These are Egyptian monuments. I will make life miserable for anyone who keeps them.” Britain has refused to return them.

Alex Joffe of the Wall Street Journal expressed the opinion that the looting of antiquities during the 2011 civil unrest in Egypt made Hawass' quest to return Egyptian antiquities to Egypt "misguided or at least poorly timed."

DNA testing of Egyptian mummies

Hawass has been skeptical of the DNA testing of Egyptian mummies; "From what I understand," he has said, "it is not always accurate and it cannot always be done with complete success when dealing with mummies. Until we know for sure that it is accurate, we will not use it in our research."

In December 2000, a joint team from Waseda University in Japan and Cairo's Ain Shams University tried to get permission for DNA testing of Egyptian mummies, but was denied by the Egyptian Government. Hawass stated at the time that DNA analysis was out of the question because it would not lead to anything.

In February 2010, Hawass and his team announced that they had analyzed the mummies of Tutankhamun and ten other mummies and said that the king could have died from a malaria infection that followed a leg fracture. German researchers Christian Timmann and Christian Meyer have cast doubt on this theory, suggesting other possible alternatives for Tutankhamun's cause of death.

In 2012, a study signed by Hawass disclosed that Ramses III had a haplogroup that is associated with the Bantu expansion and is the most dominant in Sub-Saharan Africa, E1b1a.

Recognition and awards

Hawass is the recipient of the Egyptian state award of the first degree for his work in the Sphinx restoration project. In 2002, he was awarded the American Academy of Achievements' Golden Plate and the glass obelisk from US scholars for his efforts to the protection and preservation of Ancient Egyptian monuments. In 2003, Hawass was given international membership in the Russian Academy for Natural Sciences (RANS), and in 2006, he was chosen as one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time magazine.


Relationships with other archaeologists

Hawass has been accused of domineering behaviour, forbidding archaeologists to announce their own findings, and courting the media for his own gain after they were denied access to archaeological sites because, according to Hawass, they were too amateurish. A few, however, have said in interviews that some of what Hawass has done for the field was long overdue. Hawass has typically ignored or dismissed his critics, and when asked about it he indicated that what he does is for the sake of Egypt and the preservation of its antiquities.

Views on Jews and Israel

Hawass has been a long-standing opponent of normalised relations between Israel and Egypt. In an interview on Egyptian television in April 2009 Hawass stated that "although Jews are few in number, they control the entire world" and commented on the "control they have" of the American economy and the media. He later wrote that he was using rhetoric to explain political fragmentation among the Arabs and that he does not believe in a "Jewish conspiracy to control the world".

Aftermath of 2011 protests

Criticism of Hawass, in Egypt and more broadly, increased following the protests in Egypt in 2011. On July 12, 2011, The New York Times reported on a story on page A1 that Hawass receives an honorarium each year "of as much as $200,000 from National Geographic to be an explorer-in-residence even as he controls access to the ancient sites it often features in its reports." The Times also reported that he has relationships with two American companies that do business in Egypt.

On April 17, 2011, Hawass was sentenced to jail for one year for refusing to obey a court ruling relating to a contract for the gift shop at the Egyptian Museum to a company with links to Hawass. The ruling was appealed and this specific sentence was suspended pending appeal. The following day, the National Council of Egypt's Administrative Court issued a decree to overturn the court's original ruling, specifying that he would serve no jail time, and would instead remain in his position as Minister of Antiquities. The jail sentence was lifted after a new contract was solicited for the running of the gift shop.

Association with Mubarak

As Minister of Antiquities, Hawass has been closely associated with the government of former President Hosni Mubarak. His resignation as minister on March 3, 2011 and his re-appointment to the Ministry on March 30, 2011 have been seen as part of the overall events surrounding Mubarak's resignation. It has been reported that his re-appointment has angered numerous factions, who have opposed the appointment of any of the old guard under Mubarak to new positions in the government. The 2011 Egyptian protests resulted in increased criticism of Hawass. Demonstrators called for his resignation, and the upheaval has increased attention on his relationship with the Mubarak family and the way in which he has increased his public profile in recent years.

Commercial endeavours

Hawass has lent his name to a line of men's apparel, described by The New York Times as "a line of rugged khakis, denim shirts and carefully worn leather jackets that are meant, according to the catalog copy, to hark "back to Egypt’s golden age of discovery in the early 20th century"; the clothing was first sold at Harrods department store in London, in April 2011. Critics say the Hawass clothing commercializes Egyptian history, and objected to their understanding that "models had sat on or scuffed priceless ancient artifacts during the photo shoot," an accusation that was denied by Hawass and the clothing manufacturers. Hawass already sells a line of Stetson hats reproducing the ones he wears, which "very much resemble" the ones worn by Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones movies.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 13 Mar 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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