Sharon Waxman and Source Nations

I want to point out an interesting blog by Sharon Waxman, a culture writer for the New York Times. She’s writing dispatches from the middle-east while doing research for a forthcoming book on the antiquities and repatriation problem. She seems to have some impressive contacts, and has already talked about meeting with people like Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s Antiquities Minister. The question of repatriation is a difficult and controversial subject, and many journalists have done excellent work on the topic in the past. Books by Peter Watson and Roger Atwood have been particularly excellent. Waxman’s forthcoming work certainly starts with some fascinating stories and conflicts, and I’ll be interested to see her take. Here is an excerpt of her time spent with Hawass:

I’m sitting in the office of Zahi Hawass, chief of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, in Cairo. His office, in the SCA headquarters on the island of Zamalek, is a garden variety Egyptian bureaucrat’s bland mix of tan walls and oversized stuffed furniture. (Happily, the wireless Internet works.) But there’s a curious thing in the lobby. In a large vitrine, the famed bust of Nefertiti — see it at left — sits in a place of honor. Strange because this is a copy, and Egypt has no end of authentic artifacts to show off in the lobby of its antiquities service. The bust has not been in Egypt since its discovery in the first part of the 20th century. It now lives in Berlin, and is prime on Hawass’s list of requests for loan in 2012. Berlin has responded that the statue is too fragile to travel. Hawass does not accept this argument, and continues to push.

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2 thoughts on “Sharon Waxman and Source Nations”

  1. Derek,
    I am a big fan of your blog and have followed your work on this matter for some time. However, advertising Sharon Waxman’s work should be done with some caution. I am one of the ‘eager American assistants’ Waxman mentions in an earlier post on Waxword. I work for Dr. Hawass and am one of his strongest supporters. I also happen to be writing my thesis on this issue and as such, offered to sit down with Waxman when she was in the office to discuss her research. Sounds to me like she is not supportive of the SCA’s work nor respectful of efforts made by similar councils worldwide. I would be cautious to plug her book on your blog.

  2. Thanks for the information and the cautionary note. I’m not at all sure what Waxman’s ultimate stance will be on the issue, but the bar for similar books by journalists has been set quite high by Peter Watson and others. Her website is definitely primarily aimed at promoting her own work and includes a lot of information on celebrity news, which I don’t have a lot of respect for.

    However, she does visit a lot of great sites (so far just in Egypt), and it is this fascination that people in Market nations such as the US have with the ancient places which renders the repatriation challenge so onerous.

    I would be interested to learn more about your thesis. If you get a chance send me an email at derek.fincham at

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