The catacombs of Kom el-Chouqafa, in Alexandria, are now protected from rising groundwater. The egyptian government has equipped the archaeological site tourism of six drainage pumps to protect them in the event of a flood. “It is a unique program that combined archaeology and civil engineering,” said Thomas Nichols, a consulting engineer who participated in the project. The work of the modernization project, realized with the help of the United States Agency for international development (USAID), started in November 2017.
In 1985, the egyptian authorities had launched a program of drainage of groundwater through a pump system that is permanent. In 2015, the USAID had agreed to finance the modernization of this program. “We had asked immediately for the launch of a new project at Kom el-Shouqafa to finish with this issue of groundwater that threaten the area for over a hundred years,” said the egyptian minister of Antiquities, Khaled el-Anani at the inauguration of the program.
Many ancient sites in egypt are threatened by the rise of groundwater, which weakens their foundations, including the temple of Karnak in Luxor or even the plateau to the Sphinx of Giza. The rise of groundwater is related to various factors, including an irrigation system, very greedy, urbanization, leakage of wastewater to the sea level rise related to climate change, or man-made dams.
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This project is “an example of U.s. support for the egyptian government in the preservation of its cultural heritage,” said Tom Goldberger, chargé d’affaires of the United States in Egypt. According to him, Washington has spent “more than one hundred million dollars (88 million euros) in this field, “in recent decades”.
Employees from the first to the Fourth century of our era, under the roman Empire, the catacombs of Kom el-Shouqafa was discovered in 1900 and are regarded as the most important of Alexandria. Mixing the styles of egyptian, roman and Greek, they consist of a set of three underground tombs, carved in limestone rocks and is home to the tombs of the rich families of the time.
Egypt has recently stepped up its communication about the new archaeological discoveries and restoration projects of ancient sites, in order to revive the tourism sector, has been struggling since the popular uprising of 2011. At the end of 2018, forty mummies were discovered in burial chambers dating from the ptolemaic period (323-30 av J.-C.) at the necropolis of Tuna el-Gebel, in the province of Minya, in middle Egypt.
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