MOSCOW, October 7 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian public has stepped up to support the country’s Egyptologists who ran out of money for an archeological expedition because of rising electricity tariffs, the organizer of a donation drive said.
The archeologists raised the minimum required 160,000 rubles ($4,850) within a week to pay its bill, allowing the institute to also fund an expedition to Giza, home to the Great Pyramid, to excavate a single 4,500-year-old tomb there, Maxim Lebedev of the Moscow-based Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences said.
“We used to have stable funding all the time, but now they had to pay the increased utilities tariffs, and the institute administration…had no other choice, otherwise the institute would have had no electricity,” Lebedev told RIA Novosti.
The expedition, active since 1996, is currently the only such foreign expedition on Egyptian soil other than a US group, according to the donation drive’s page at Boomstarter.ru.
The archeologists now hope to raise 300,000 rubles ($9,300) by November 1 – the deadline for the donation drive – enough for a team of seven to fly from Moscow to the pyramids to study several previously untapped tombs dating back to the time of the pharaohs.
The donation meter stood at more than 190,000 rubles ($5,900) as of Tuesday afternoon.
The Institute of Oriental Studies is part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, currently the subject of controversial reforms driven by the government, which says it is doing so to improve the effectiveness of Russian science. However, Lebedev stressed that the expedition’s problems are not related to the reform bill that was signed into law last month.
Utilities tariffs rose 9.1 percent in Russia over the first nine months of 2013, according to the State Statistics Service.