Gaza Museum of Archaeology
The Gaza Museum of Archaeology (Arabic: المتحف, Al Mat'haf, "The Museum") called in English the AlMath'af, Recreational Cultural House opened to the public in fall 2008 in Gaza. The Museum is a privately owned restaurant, hotel, and conference center, with a privately owned museum that houses antiquities discovered in the Gaza Strip from various historical periods.
The museum holds a collection of 350 artifacts. They date as far back as the Bronze Age (3500 BCE). Tools, columns, motifs, coins, glass and pottery from the Roman and Byzantine periods, the Islamic period, the Crusader periods, continuing through the modern era to the time of the Egyptian administration of the Gaza Strip, which ended in 1967. Each display features explanations of the artifacts in several languages, designed for specialists and laymen alike, although none of the artifacts featured on the museum's website is identified or dated.
According to museum director, Jawdat N. Khoudary, "The idea is to show our deep roots from many cultures in Gaza. … It’s important that people realize we had a good civilization in the past. Israel has legitimacy from its history. We do, too."
Gaza does not have a law requiring rescue archaeology when construction crews happen on archaeological artifacts. As a construction company owner, Khoudary instructs his employees to save whatever they dig up so that he can search it for treasures for the museums. He also pays fishermen who bring him archaeologically interesting objects.
The New York Times describes the museum building, made partly of stones recovered from old houses, old railroad ties and marble columns discovered by Gazan fishermen and construction workers, as "stunning".
The museum was planned to be sponsored by UNESCO, and to be funded by a board of Palestinian trustees. It receives scientific and technical support from the Museums Division of the city of Geneva. As of 2010 it was privately owned and operated.
Some of the museum displays are censored by the Hamas-led government of Gaza. Objects that cannot be displayed include an Aphrodite whose gown is too revealing, images of other ancient deities and oil lamps featuring menorahs.
- "Al-Mathaf a Proud Tribute to Gaza’s Past and Future," Sami Abdel-Shafi, August 2010, This Week in Palestine.
- Museum Offers Gray Gaza a View of Its Dazzling Past, Ethan Bronner, New York Times, July 25, 2008.
- Gaza at the Crossroad of Civilizations.