Centuries of Archaeological Digs Have Devastated This Egyptian Village

Few residents remain in the village of Qurna.

Aerial view of Qurna archaeological site, Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, Theban Necropolis (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1979), Egypt. (DeAgostini/Getty Images)

The population of Qurna in Egypt’s west bank has dwindled to a small number of hangers-on after centuries of battles with foreign archaeologists. A new article in Smithsonian details a history of disputes between archaeologists searching for artifacts from the ancient city of Thebes and the locals whose labor they exploited.

Since the late 1990s, the Egyptian state has tried to clear Qurna of its residents to groom the village as a tourist destination, with tactics ranging from offering incentives to bulldozing large swaths of land. The last 140 years have seen countless showdowns between archaeologists and residents regarding the ownership of uncovered tombs. It’s a history that includes tomb raiding and the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s resting place, and it ends with an entire population forced from their homes.

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