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Card Decks Raise Awareness of Egyptian Antiquities

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2009 – Legend has it that when the French invaded Egypt in 1798, artillerymen used the Sphinx for target practice and shot the nose off of it.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Laurie Rush, the cultural resources program manager at Fort Drum, N.Y., has put together a deck of cards for servicemembers participating in the Bright Star military exercise in Egypt. The cards contain tips on safeguarding artifacts and archeologically sensitive sites. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Laurie Rush wants to make sure American troops traveling to Egypt for the upcoming Bright Star military exercise don’t make the same impression.

Rush, the cultural resources program manager at Fort Drum, N.Y., has put together a deck of cards for servicemembers that urges them to respect Egyptian heritage. She was the brains behind a similar deck distributed to servicemembers deploying to Iraq.

The cards are part of the Defense Department’s Legacy Resource Management Program, which is aimed at preserving natural and cultural resources. Archeologists from around the world are working together to preserve mankind’s common heritage.

The effort will include distributing 10,000 decks of cards to Americans and, perhaps, international servicemembers who will deploy to the “Land of the Pharaohs,” Rush said in an interview. “The cards have English and Arabic, so it’s a good way to spread the word,” Rush said.

The Bright Star exercise will begin in September, but servicemembers will start arriving for planning sessions months earlier. Personnel deploying to Bright Star will receive instruction in safeguarding artifacts and archeologically sensitive sites. The cards will serve as a reminder of those lessons.

Each card has a photograph of the gold funerary mask of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, also known as King Tut, on one side. On the other, each card has a different photo and factoid on Egyptian history or generic tips to preserve archeological treasures. For example, the five of hearts has a picture of the temple of Abu Simbel and the words “Protecting archeological sites helps preserve them for future generations.”

The nine of spades has a shot of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter and the caption, “Helicopter rotor wash can damage archeological sites. Locate your [landing zones] a safe distance away from known sites.”

“In Egypt, we need our people to really pay attention to their surroundings,” Rush said. “If they are in areas where the ground is more than just sand, they need to be as careful as they can be.”

Egypt is one of the world’s oldest civilizations. People have lived along the Nile River for at least 8,000 years, and great cities rose and fell along the banks of the river. It’s not uncommon for visitors there to stumble upon an artifact.

Being mindful of artifacts is more than just being careful in the field, Rush said. Egyptian grave robbers and artifact scavengers sell antiquities.

“Aside from the fact that many of these artifacts are fakes, the Egyptian government and the U.S. military has severe penalties for anyone caught buying or selling these goods,” Rush said.

These artifacts often are all that remain of ancient civilizations, Rush said. Professional archeologists who find artifacts in place can fill in gaps in human history.

Rush worked with experts at the Colorado State University. James A. Zeidler and Tracy Wagner were responsible for the final design and production of the decks.

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Legacy Resource Management Program

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