IVLP Alumni Spotlight: Conserving Antiquities in Sinai

Mr. Hesham Hamed conducting conservation work in Sinai


This post was submitted by Addie Curley, Program Associate in Meridian’s Professional Exchanges Division.

In April of 2019, three Egyptian antiquities experts embarked on their International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) experience after attending the American Research Center in Egypt’s (ARCE) annual meeting. The week-long program brought them to Washington, DC, Philadelphia, PA, and New York, NY to examine how U.S. institutions utilize technology in the area of conservation, engage in dialogue with experts to increase international cooperation, and create opportunities for future partnerships between U.S. and Egyptian museums and academic institutions. Mr. Hesham Hamed is the Director-General of North Sinai Antiquities within the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. He had the following reflections about his program and its impact on his recent archaeological discovery in Sinai:

It was a great honor for me to be part of the 2019 IVLP visit to the U.S., it was an important milestone. After I returned to Egypt, my responsibilities kept getting bigger and bigger over time, and finally, I was promoted as a General Director of the Antiquities Office in Sinai – Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Being an archeologist is a very interesting and important role for me. I like exploring the connections between ancient civilizations, and the connections between past and present societies. For me, visiting the United States of America is an accomplishment to add to my list. I have visited different countries around the world, but this time is unique.

Sinai is a very vast area that needs to be explored, so, after getting promoted, I started to put together a five-year plan to investigate and rehabilitate the most important archeological sites in North and South Sinai. I started to reorganize my priorities and selected a team of very qualified archeologists. I was influenced by the rock art and inscriptions documentation project of Dr. [John] Darnell [Professor of Egyptology at Yale University] whom I met during the IVLP program. My recent most interesting discovery in Sinai was the documentation of Zolma cave in North Sinai and Zaranig Cave in South Sinai with its unique rock art and inscriptions which are dated back to 10,000 years ago.

Mr. Hamed visits the Department of the Interior to meet with the National Park Service

Although our IVLP program was short, I was able to visit many places and meet different people. The experience which I gained is worth the effort and time. One of the interesting experiences was to learn more about turquoise, the major semi-precious stone that the Ancient Egyptians extracted from my working places at south Sinai from Serabit el-Khadim and Wadi Maghara.

For the first time, I learned about a new research project done by the Conservation Department at The Metropolitan Museum of Art entitled: Proveniencing Turquoise Artifacts from Ancient Egyptian Contexts. This study developed a new method for sourcing turquoise. The results are amazing, and the conservator department is looking forward to a future co-operation with my department in Sinai to investigate some ancient Egyptian turquoise mines in south Sinai. This will be fantastic, and the results will be valuable.

Cooperation between Egypt and the U.S. in the field of archeology is not only desirable but mandatory. I recommend that the IVLP program continue organizing visits studying archeology that provide young professionals with quality education useful for both countries.

Finally, I would like to thank all experts and professionals I met during my visit. I would like to tell them “Thank you for your time and your help and I’m looking forward to future cooperation between your institutions and the supreme council of Antiquities in Egypt. Looking forward to seeing you in your second country, Egypt!”