The new Egyptian ruins


If tourism persists at the current rate in Egypt, the Sphinx may soon need more than just a nose job. NEW SCIENTIST reports that tourists are destroying prehistoric sites in Egypt’s Western Desert with a recklessness never seen before. “Unless urgent measures are taken, Egypt will be left with not one prehistoric site intact,” said Rudolph Kuper of the University of Cologne.

Egypt has already lost all the known prehistoric sites along the Nile valley to land reclamation and building projects. Now, a crisis is building in the Wadi Sura, or “Valley of Pictures,” where visitors are pouring water over paintings — some of which are 7,000 years old — to make them more easily visible. This draws salt to the surface and makes the paintings erode faster. Tour operators have been no help, either — their off-road vehicles are scattering artifacts at thousands of unexcavated sites.