Tomb Robbers

Ceram. Gods, Graves, and Scholars, Bantam Books, NY, NY 1972

Tradition had destined the Valley of the Kings to be the home of and robbers. In 1743 the English traveler Richard Pococke gives us the first modern report of the Valley. Led by a sheik, he was able to inspect fourteen open graves. But it was not a safe place to visit. In the hills of Kurna a robber band was encamped. When James Bruce visited the Valley twenty-six years later, he learned of futile efforts to dislodge these gangs. "They are all outlaws, punished with death if elsewhere found.", Osman Bey, an ancient governor of Girge, unable to suffer any longer the disorders committed by these people, ordered a quantity of faggots to be brought together, and, with his soldiers, took possession of the face of the mountain, where the greatest number of these wretches were: "he then ordered their caves to be filled with this dry brushwood, to which he set fire so that most of them were destroyed; but they have since recruited their numbers without changing their manners."

When Bruce tried to stay overnight in the tomb chamber of Ramses III, while he was copying the wall reliefs in it, his native guides were overcome with terror and hurled their torches away, cursing. As the lights flickered and went out "they uttered blood-curdling prophecies of disaster that would befall soon after they had left the cavern!" Later, when Bruce rode down the Valley in the gathering darkness with the only servant left to him, the air was rent by shouts, and rocks came hurtling down from the side of the cliff. When Napoleon's "Egyptian Commission" arrived thirty years later, to survey the Valley and its tombs, they too were attacked and even shot at by robbers. pp. 187-188

The following is an account of a trial of a young boy who was found to be part of a grave-robbing gang. The facts of the trial are as follows: "These hearings showed that the whole village of Kurna, Abd-el-Rasul's home town, was a nest of robbers." The profession had been handed down from father to son in apparently unbroken lines since the thirteenth (13th) century.

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