Archaeologist and social media activist Dr. Monica Hanna risks her own life to focus worldwide attention to the looting problem in Egypt.
Dr. Hanna’s lecture, aptly titled “Saving Ancient Egypt, One Tweet at a Time: How Social Media is Saving One of the World’s Oldest Civilizations,” focused on the many problems that Egypt now faces and her novel use of social media to address these challenges.
Drawing on firsthand accounts, the Egyptian archaeologist explained how she herself had witnessed—and indeed, continues to witness—armed and well-funded looters pillaging ancient and historical sites, as well as land-grabbing mafia groups who hastily build or bury their dead on such sites in an effort to claim the land. Dr. Hanna also cited her documentation of extreme damage caused by bulldozers and dynamite.
With more than 30,000 followers on Twitter and a growing network on Egypt’s Heritage Task Force, the Facebook community that she founded, Dr. Hanna has not only effectively used social media to raise public awareness; she has also rallied on-site assistance in cleaning up vandalized sites and has also protected destructive actions from occurring at others. Dr. Hanna then went on to explain the situation and her role in confronting the aftermath of a destructive attack on Egypt’s famed Malawi Museum, using the story to demonstrate the dire state of the country’s current looting situation. The incident resulted in most of the museum’s holdings ending up either stolen or destroyed, with the tragedy escalating such that the first local staffer on scene was shot dead. In the days following the event, Dr. Hanna, together with a local police officer and his family, as well as a group of local volunteers familiar with her work via Twitter, rescued what remained at the Malawi Museum.
Another highlight from Dr. Hanna’s lecture included a call to action, spurred yet again by the archaeologist herself. In this particular example, members of the local community of Dahshur—an area within the Memphis and Giza Pyramids World Heritage Site—came out in force to protest the looting of the site and to speak up for its protection, after learning of such incidents of armed looting and vandalism via Dr. Hanna’s Twitter feed. Moreover, the ensuing media attention from the protests prompted the government to provide improved security at the site. With a fitting quotation from the recent film adaptation of The Monuments Men, Dr. Hanna ended her presentation:
You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground, and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements, then it’s as if they never existed.Dr. Monica Hanna
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