A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

After the Fall: Zahi Hawass, Modest as Always, Compares Himself to Osiris

He was always self-effacing
In the days before the Egyptian revolution, whenever you surfed the Discovery Channel, the National Geographic Channel, or the History Channel (before they abandoned history entirely for pawnshops, ghosts, and "Swamp People"), you could be sure of one thing: if the program dealt with Ancient Egypt, Zahi Hawass, then the Director of Antiquities, would appear in it, wearing his signature Indiana Jones hat, which you could also buy through his personal website. He may have been the first real celebrity TV archaeologist; when my daughter learned I'd met him many years ago and we had friends in common, she was more impressed than by my meeting actual heads of state. He was controversial, flamboyant, self-promoting, but he also interested a great many people in Ancient Egypt without invoking Ancient Astronauts or Secrets of the Great Pyramid. He brought money to Egypt, though the fact that he made quite a bit for himself raised hackles, as did allegations that he tended to hog the credit for discoveries made by subordinates. This blog used to post about him quite a bit, sometimes seriously, sometimes in fun. Came the Revolution: and then he was gone. He was convicted of corruption, though the verdict was later overturned.

Well, he hasn't gone far. Smithsonian has an interview: "The Rise and Fall and Rise of Zahi Hawass." He doesn't like Morsi of course, or his successors at the Antiquities Ministry, and he talks of a comeback. Modest as always, he compares himself to the dying and resurrecting God Osiris:
Today, Hawass finds parallels between his fall and that of Osiris. “I had lots of enemies—the enemies of success,” he says. “They are the friends of the god Set, the evil desert god in ancient Egypt.”
(As an Egyptologist he surely knows that when Isis put Osiris back together, there was one body part she couldn't find because a fish had eaten it.  You can look it up. I suspect, however, this was not the image he wanted to convey, but rather that of resurrection.)

Like many of the old guard of the Mubarak era, he's survived various charges and seen convictions overturned, and he's still in the wings, promising a comeback. If Osiris can do it ...


xoussef said...

The missing bit didn't stop Osiris from fathering Horus, but I seem to recall that he had absolutely no part in his own resurrection, it was all Isis' doing, her magic, her spells, her wanting his seed. That defeats the whole "self willed resurrection" theme for me, penis or no penis. :)

Michael Collins Dunn said...

Yes, and Isis made him a new one out of gold, I believe. I'm not sure Zahi has an Isis waiting in the wings.