In a recent article entitled “Egypt’s Tomb Raider - Off and (Mostly) on Camera" (New York Times April 18, 2009) author Michael Slackman seems to have understood that my principal goal is to promote both ancient and modern Egypt -- and in doing so to protect our past and to improve our future. Slackman does, however, quote several of the criticisms that are sometimes aimed at me, and therefore I would like to take this opportunity to clarify a few of these points here.
The reason that I am the person who makes all announcements concerning newly discovered antiquities in Egypt is that this is my official responsibility as Head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. Egyptian Law decrees that I, as Secretary General, am the one to report all new archaeological finds in Egypt. It is an important part of my job to make sure that all information released is correct, and to prevent the dissemination of false or misleading news or speculation. However, I am always careful to give credit where credit is due. When I announce the discoveries of foreign expeditions and Egyptian missions other than my own, I always credit archaeologists and their expeditions for their own discoveries.
In terms of taking credit for my own discoveries -- of course I do. I choose the projects that I direct based on a variety of theories of ideas, and, like all expedition directors, have many assistants who work under my supervision. At Saqqara, for example, I have had over 50 assistants since I began excavations there in 1988. Journalists are not permitted to visit my excavations and discuss my work with any of my assistants. So is true that in announcements concerning my own excavations, I am the one credited -- because I am the director of the mission, and this is always the case. However, I am always careful to mention the members of my team as well. If you have read any of my books then you know that I always make a point of acknowledging the efforts and the contributions of my colleagues and team members. I cannot, however, be responsible for what members of the media report in their programs and articles.
I would also like to address the issue of my interpretation of KV 63. I did theorize initially that it might be the tomb of King Tut’s mother, whom at the time I thought, like many Egyptologists, could possibly be identified as a minor wife of Akhenaten’s named Kiya. After continuing to follow the results of the excavations, I agreed with the conclusions of Dr. Schaden and his team, namely that KV 63 had ultimately been used for the storage of mummification materials; I still think that the tomb might originally have been carved for an Amarna-period woman and later usurped. In any case, as a scholar, I have the right to share my ideas, whether or not they are liked and indeed whether or not they turn out to be correct.
Archaeology in Egypt has been thriving since the landing of Napoleon and his French troops. I am not the first person, and will surely not be the last, to conduct an archaeological excavation of a tomb that was “sealed for eternity” twenty-five hundred years ago. But it is my great privilege to have the opportunity to explore the fascinating realm of ancient Egypt, and to share my passion with the world.