Monday, February 14, 2011

Priceless antiquities missing from Egyptian Museum

It is now believed that the looting at one of Egypt's most famous museums was a lot worse than first reported.
Two King Tut statues are among the missing treasures. The looters did not manage to break into the gated room in the museum where most of Tut's items from his tomb are kept, but the items the thieves did get away with are invaluable.

A gilded wooden statue of a goddess carrying King Tut, another of the famous boy king carrying a fishing harpoon, is among the 18 items looted from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo during the anti-government protests. All of them are ancient treasures and all of them are priceless.

"When we found out that these objects had been stolen, it was just really a great shock, especially because these are really, really unique pieces," said Nora Shalaby with the museum. Shalaby is an archeologist who helps manage the museum's antiquities database. She spoke to ABC7 from her home in Cairo.
"The person who took them knew who he was going to give them to afterwards. I think it would be very difficult that they go on the market openly. I think that they're people who buy these things and put them in their collection," she said.
On the day demonstrators clashed with police, a handful of looters broke into the museum on the edge of Tahrir Square. They smashed glass cases and damaged as many as 70 invaluable objects. Museum workers are only now able to get in and take inventory. Investigators are questioning people arrested after the looting hoping to find clues.
One limestone statue is thought to be the most important missing object. Pharaoh Akhenaten, seen holding an offering table, was King Tut's father, who tried to introduce monotheism to the ancient world.
"These objects are priceless. I don't think you can even put an amount on the ones that have been stolen," Shalby told ABC7.
UC Berkeley anthropology professor Charles Hirschkind says the publicized images of the army and private citizens locking arms to protect the museum during the demonstrations speak to how much pride Egyptians have in their history.
"The feeling of having part of the cultural patrimony of the country stolen, in the context of what otherwise had been an amazing, peaceful coming together of people from all walks of life, must be very devastating for a lot of Egyptians," Hirschkind said.
The Egyptian Museum remains closed and under guard by the army. The archaeologist ABC7 said museum workers will be able to repair many of the statues that were damaged during the demonstrations.
Hawass added that last night (February 11) looters broke into a storage area in Dashur, a royal necropolis south of Cairo, which contained large blocks and small artifacts.

Limestone statue of Akhenaten photo by Kenneth Garrett.jpg
This limestone statue of Akhenaten bearing an offering tray is one of the 18 objects missing from the Egyptian Museum.
Photograph copyright of Kenneth Garrett

This is believed to be the sandstone head of an Amarna princess said by Zahi Hawass to be missing from the Egyptian Museum.
Photograph copyright of Kenneth Garrett

Two photos of the Tutankhamun artifacts released by Zahi Hawass on February 13 are added below..
News Watch will add photos of the other missing items as they become available.

Tutankhamun being carried by a goddess. Photo: Griffith Institute, via Office of Dr. Zahi Hawass, Minister of Antiquities Affair
Tutankhamun harpooning.
Photo: Griffith Institute, via Office of Dr. Zahi Hawass, Minister of Antiquities Affairs

Related News Watch blog posts:
Undiscovered Treasures Are Key Worry of Egyptologist
Looted Treasures Recovered, Egypt's Antiquities Chief Reports
UN Calls on Egypt to Safeguard its "Cultural Identity"
Young Egyptians Rally to Protect Egypt's Ancient Heritage
Plundering of Tombs, Museums, Antiquities Widespread, Egyptian Official Reports
Ancient Treasures Looted, Destroyed in Egypt's Chaos

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