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When Israel gained control of
the peninsula, it immediately be-
gan to build an infrastructure.
"One of our main goals was to
protect sites from being destroyed
when roads were constructed,"
Mr. Goren said, "and another
problem was curious tourists who
explored half-exposed ruins.
Truthfully, our work began as a
At the time, Mr. Goren added,
the Israeli excavators felt like pi-
oneers. "Sinai was virtually un-
known to archaeologists. Very
few sites had been excavated.
There was St. Catherine's
Monastery and a few places,
mostly along the main road."
During the archaeologists' 15
years in the Sinai, "we got to
know the place and fall in love
with it," Mr. Goren said. "It was
a wilderness, but with a human
touch. Bedouins live there. My
children grew up among the
It was the Bedouins who
helped the Israelis identify po-
tential sites, Mr. Goren noted.
"They are familiar with the area
and helped us very much," he
Once a possible site had been
identified, the archaeologists em-
ployed a number of high-tech re-
search tools, including satellite
mapping, to determine what lay
beneath centuries' worth of soil
In all, the Israelis — most no-
tably teams from Ben-Gurion
University of the Negev, the Is-
rael Antiquities Department and
Tel Aviv University — excavat-
ed about 19 sites.
Asked whether he and his col-
leagues feel some regret handing
over the artifacts to the Egyp-
tians, Mr. Goren replied, "I do, of
course, have a personal attach-
ment to these things, but you
must remember that even if they
stayed in Israel, I would not keep
them in my home. They belong
in a museum.
AP/ENRIQU E MARTI
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Jerusalem (JTA) — Just weeks
after Israel captured the Sinai
Peninsula from Egypt in 1967,
Israeli archaeologists began a se-
ries of groundbreaking excava-
tions that continued until the
country's withdrawal from the
area in 1982.
Digging in a region that had
been virtually ignored by the in-
ternational scientific communi-
ty, the Israelis unearthed a
wealth of artifacts and skeletons,
many dating back over 5,000
In a few months, Israel will re-
turn the last of these archaeo-
logical treasures to Egypt, under
the terms of the 1979 peace ac-
cord between the two countries.
To usher out the end of an era,
the Israel Museum last week
launched the exhibit, "Sinai: A
Farewell for Peace." Scheduled
to close on September 12, this ex-
hibit marks the first — and pos-
sibly last — time that the Sinai
artifacts will be displayed to the
Thanks to the region's dry cli-
mate, many of the finds are in re-
markably good condition.
Foremost among these are
hundreds of cloth and basketry
fragments from the 14th centu-
ry CE; painted funerary masks
from the 4th-5th century BCE;
and a group of "nawamis" —
round stone structures that
served as burial tombs. More
than 5,000 years old, they are the
oldest structures in the world to
have survived with their roofs in-
tact. Some of the structures con-
tained the remains of entire
During a press tour of the ex-
hibit prior to its opening, Israeli
archaeologists recalled their "love
affair" with Sinai and the unique
discoveries made there.
Avner Goren, the archaeolo-
gist in charge of Sinai excavations
for some 15 years, noted that the
initial excavations were borne out
of practical necessity.
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Putting finishing touches on the farewell exhibit.