From a distance, it looks as though an animal has burrowed around the 4,000-year-old Black Pyramid of Amenemhat III.
But thieves dug these holes. And Egyptian archaeologist Monica Hanna calls that “a catastrophe.”
“See the ancient mud bricks?” says Hanna, 29, peering into a pit. “It is very well structured.”
She walks to another, followed by three pyramid custodians, and points into the 25-foot hole with a tunnel to one side. Here, she says, looters exposed what might be a burial shaft.
One custodian, Said Hussein, 32, tells her that as many as 30 armed men come nightly to dig for antiquities. They beat two custodians, broke an arm of one and “attacked the armed guards on the gate.”
“Do they find anything?” she asks.
“They only find pottery, stuff like that,” he replies. “A wooden coffin, that's what they take.”
These “massive looting pits,” Hanna says, have made “Swiss cheese” of a 2-mile-long field of five pyramids listed as a United Nations World Heritage Site.(...)
The brazen looting and the encroaching cemetery reflect Egypt's lawlessness and political unrest since its 2011 revolution.