On Tuesday, an Egyptian court in Giza sentenced nine people to five years in prison for stealing rock samples and fragments of an ancient scroll from Cairo’s Great Pyramid. According to judicial sources, three Germans claimed to be researchers in order to gain access to the artifacts. They were aided by five Egyptians: three employees of the antiquities ministry, two pyramid guards and a director a travel agency.
Shortly after discovering the crime in end of 2013, Egyptian authorities announced that the missing artifacts had been recovered in August. Following this announcement, the three Germans were sentenced in absentia. However, in accordance with international law, a state only has legal authority over the people within its borders, unless an extradition treaty is present. Thus, at this time, it is unclear whether or not the Germans will actually serve their sentence, since they left Egypt after the crime.
According to sources, the “researchers” stole the scroll pieces in order to determine the age of the artifact and to shed light on an unorthodox theory that the pyramids may actually be several millennia older than the age most Egyptologist believe it to be. The scroll, which bears the name of Pharaoh Khufu, was uncovered in the largest of the three Giza Pyramids that currently houses the tomb of the pharaoh. It is considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
One of the convicted Germans, Dominique Goerlitz, claims that, ‘it has never been logically clarified how Bronze Age people 4,600 years ago’ could have built the pyramid. Although a school teacher by trade, Goerlitz describes himself as an independent ‘experimental archaeologist.’ At this time, he does not deny taking the artifacts.
The court has also ordered an enquiry to determine the role Zawi Hawass, the Egypt’s former head of antiquities, played in the theft.
‘These remarks are totally unfounded,’ Hawass told AFP.
It is expected that the six convicted Egyptian men will launch an appeal against their sentences. As for the three German men who were convicted in absentia, they are entitled to a complete retrial if they are ever taken into Egyptian custody.