In the waning days of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s rule, he appointed an entirely new cabinet, including Zahi Hawass as the new Antiquities Minister. Only a few days after Mubarak stepped down in the face of unparalleled popular demonstrations, some of the protesters shifted their focus to Hawass himself.

Crowds of students and young archaeologists gathered in the street outside Hawass’s office at the Supreme Council of Antiquities to protest low wages and lack of jobs, accusing Hawass of corruption, close ties to ousted president Mubarak and being a publicity hog.

Faced with these public demonstrations and mounting reports of missing artifacts and continued looting at Egypt’s ancient sites (see sidebar), Hawass announced on March 3 that he would resign from his ministry position. His reasons for stepping down included not only outrage at attacks from inside the antiquities department, but more importantly his lack of personnel to protect Egypt’s antiquities from looters.

His absence “left a vacuum” according to some, leaving many to wonder who, if anyone, was in control of the antiquities situation in Egypt.

Hawass still had support in the government and archaeological community, however. On March 30 Hawass was reappointed minister of antiquities by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.—D.D.R.