After nearly a decade as chief of Egypt's antiquities, Zahi Hawass is now out of a job.
The 64-year-old archaeologist was fired yesterday by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf as part of a wider shakeup of his cabinet. Protestors at Cairo's Tahrir Square had been calling for his ouster as minister of antiquities for months. "All the devils united against me," Hawass told Science Insider.
The country's most prominent figure in archaeology, Hawass was instrumental in sending large blockbuster exhibits abroad, creating a host of new museums and secure storerooms, and pressuring foreign excavators to publish their finds more quickly. But he was also criticized for his portrayal on American television of archaeology as treasure hunting, excoriated for his dictatorial management style, and accused of shoddy research in carrying out his own digs. Sharaf is said to have appointed Abdel-Fattah El-Banna as Hawass' replacement, but there are reports that protestors have rejected that nomination, and that Sharaf might reverse his decision and name someone else.
El-Banna is an engineer and stone specialist at Cairo University with experience in restoring ancient buildings. He has been an outspoken critic of Hawass in recent months, accusing him of being involved in the illegal antiquities trade, a charge that Hawass denies.