An archaeologist has labelled her a pirate.
95-year-old Australian Joan Howard, otherwise known as 'Indiana Joan', is currently under investigation following newspaper coverage of her extensive collection of Middle Eastern artifacts. Egypt's foreign ministry has requested an investigation into how these pieces - which in total are worth over EGP 13 million - came to be removed from Egypt illegally. It is not yet known, however, whether Howard broke any national or international law, as the UNESCO convention on the illicit trade of cultural property was only adopted in 1970.
The West Australian detailed how, in the 1960s and 70s, Howard herself crawled through tombs as a volunteer on archaeological excavations. The items she obtained on these digs - which are up to 4,000 years old - include a funerary mummy mask from Sakkara, Roman and Phoenician pottery, Ancient Egyptian jewellery, and Neolithic ax heads. Her activities were made possible due to her husband's diplomatic posting with the United Nations, which saw her travel extensively through Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, and Syria.
It seems a grave view is also being taken of Howard's portrayal in the media. Archaeologist Dr Monica Hanna, in an open letter to the Australian Ambassador, states that Howard 'behaved as a pirate' and that her labelling as a 'real-life Tomb Raider' lends an unjustly positive stance to her activities. The jury is still out as to whether the elderly swashbuckler will need to give up items from her collection for repatriation.