This is to add a few points to Robert’s post. After some grueling travel, I am now in New Jersey on my way back to home in California. As Robert noted, just before I left Cairo, after Robert returned from Italy, I informed him of what I had found missing and the apparent vandalism at Nabta Playa. We compared photos from my visit April 17, Roberts visit November 2007, and my previous visit October 2003. Last week, my visit was with an Egyptian Western Desert guide, his driver, and an Egyptian army security officer from the army base at Kharga Oasis. In 2003, I visited with a small British desert tour group, also with an Egyptian army/antiquities security officer.
I was indeed saddened to find when I arrived at Nabta that the finest sculpted stone at the calendar circle was missing. Also missing were others of the long “pointer-like” stones of the circle and the circle stones were generally jumbled. Also missing, from the megaliths at “Complex Structure A” was at least one (probably more) large enigmatically shaped/sculpted stones (megaliths). The camp rubbish in the photograph is located at the area in the center of the playa, next to the large dune, where the archaeologists (the Combined Prehistoric Expedition) traditionally camped for the winter excavation season. Normally the official expeditions don’t leave much rubbish. To remove the larger shaped megalith would have required an organized effort of several people. I have some hope that the stones may have been removed by some official group and preserved in some sense. Some time before 2002, the centerpiece of Complex Structure A – a megalith finely shaped in a geometric form – was removed to the UNESCO-supported Nubian Museum in Aswan, and unfortunately was broken either there or in transport.
The removal and destruction of these shaped stones is especially tragic for the following reason. Though there has been some progress in our understanding of Nabta Playa, much about the meaning and use of the constructions there remains enigmatic as I have noted and even Malville, Wendorf et al. have noted as recently as 2007. Further study of these items might have aided the gradual uncovering of their meaning.
I know that for many years Wendorf and his team argued for the site to be more secure, as I did in my 2002 writing. Because the site has been unsecured, I refrained from publishing my 2003 photos of finely worked stones, and refrained from publishing gps coordinates until after Wendorf and all published them. There is still hope that the remainder of the site may be preserved and the archaeologists’ data used to reconstruct the enigmatic features of Nabta Playa for the view and study of others.
Below are my photos from five years ago of items now missing:
[Here, I tried to post photos, but they don't appear. If anyone knows
how to post photos here, without a separate website, let me know.]