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House panel looking into museum artefacts after 400 ancient coins replaced with fakes

By Rana Husseini - Feb 03,2016 - Last updated at Feb 03,2016

A view of the Amman Citadel recently. A total of 400 ancient coins that were on display at the museum near the Citadel have been replaced with fake ones. Authorities are investigating the issue (Photo by Amjad Ghsoun)

AMMAN — The Lower House Integrity Committee recently asked the tourism minister to provide a list containing the ancient artefacts, coins and antiquities that are displayed in the Kingdom’s museums.

The request was made following the discovery of fake ancient gold and silver coins in the Citadel Museum in Amman recently, MP Amjad Al Khattab (Maan, 1st District) said.

“There were 401 ancient coins in the Citadel Museum and someone replaced 400 of these priceless pieces with fake ones,” Khattab told The Jordan Times over the phone on Tuesday.

The deputy said a French archaeologist discovered these ancient gold coins along with a Jordanian excavation team a few years ago.

“The French archaeologist had brought students to Jordan to show them his discovery, and found out that the coins were fake and alerted the concerned authorities,” Khattab added.

The MP, who chairs the House Integrity Committee, said its members met with the Tourism Minister Nayef Al Fayez on Monday to learn more about the incident and the procedures taken to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.

“We could not obtain a lot of information regarding the timeframe of the incident or who might be involved.  It could have happened last week or during the past 10 years,” the deputy said.

The Jordan News Agency, Petra, on Monday said the Tourism Ministry has referred the case to the concerned authorities for investigations.

Fayez also formed a committee to investigate the incident, Petra reported.

The minister acknowledged that there is a clear “malfunction in the current procedures at the Department of Antiquities, and that the ministry is working to address it to avoid the recurrence of such incidents”, according to Petra.

But Khattab was less optimistic, voicing fear that “other museums could have been the target of similar scams”.

“At this point, we have no idea if other museums were targeted, and that is why we have asked the ministry to provide us with a list of what is on display in these places,” the lawmaker said.

“Jordan could lose its archaeological fortune because of the lax security at museums,” he warned.

“We have moved out of fear of losing this treasure and thus losing our identity.  Someone is forging the history of our country. That is why we want to know what is available in our museums,” the deputy stressed.

Former director of the inspection department at the Tourism Ministry Wajih Ammari said that there is a museum or more in each of the Kingdom’s 12 governorates.

"Most probably, the replaced coins were found 15 years ago in two areas in the country,” said Ammari, who worked for 30 years at the ministry.

“These coins were discovered by French and other foreign archaeologists with Jordanian teams.  They are priceless,” he told The Jordan Times.

The former official, who retired 10 years ago, said he had "no clue how this happened”.

 

“I knew most of the people who worked at the Citadel Museum. They are good people who cared about preserving the priceless and ancient pieces on display,” Ammari stressed.

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Comments

"It could have happened last week or during the past 10 years": This suggests that cultural heritage is not taken seriously at all in the Jordan. The value of these coins is invaluable to the cultural past of the Kingdom. Not taking precautionary measures to guard and protect the treasures and monuments of the country will surely erase the past that ever existed. How can the people of Jordan accept this?

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