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 Hierakonpolis Under Threat
The site of Hierakonpolis (ancient Nekhen), located near Edfu in Upper Egypt, is one of the most important political centres in early Egyptian history and as the city of Horus the Protector of the Egyptian King one of the foremost religious centres. Many extraordinary structures have been uncovered, including a ceremonial complex (3300-3000 BC), a palace or administrative compound (3000 BC), high status tomb complexes, houses, breweries and bakeries. Although the site is not indentured on the UNESCO World Heritage List (the Heb-Sed temple of King Khasekhemwy c. 2700 BC, is inscribed on the World Monuments Fund List), the site is without any doubt as important to Egypt’s history as Giza, Thebes (Luxor) and Amarna. The famous Narmer Palette and Macehead were found at the site nearly a hundred years ago by Quibell and Green. For over 30 years now, an international team has been investigating the site, first under the general directorship of Walter Fairservis with the prehistoric and early historic research under the directorship of Michael Hoffman, from 1996 until 2002 under the co-directorship of the late Barbara Adams and Renee Friedman, and since 2002 under the directorship of Renee Friedman. These modern excavations have increasingly become a race against time and for all intents and purposes large-scale rescue archaeology. For, although the archaeological area is clearly demarcated with a fence, local development and agriculture is continuously encroaching on archaeological land.

A few years ago, Renee Friedman at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced that the Egyptian government has plans to resettle 100,000 people in the region of Hierakonpolis. If these plans are actually put into effect, they will result in added pressure on this already endangered site and it will destroy irreplaceable cultural heritage. It is imperative that this site, one of the best preserved early sites in Egypt, is saved for future generations to learn from. One of the ways to combat this is to erect a large solid wall around the whole site, similar to that erected at Giza by Dr Zahi Hawass. Although not very pleasant to look at, a fence like that at Giza is more of a deterrent to not only stop illegal farming practices but also looters. Renee Friedman and her team excavate a large amount of valuable information each season, which is helping to elucidate this formative period of Egyptian civilization, however, as this project is not government funded, but relies on grants and donations, it is a matter of how these limited resources can best be utilised to rescue the site. For those wishing to help save this site visit the Friends of Nekhen website (http://www.hierakonpolisonline.com) where you can become a member or make a donation.
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