Skip to content

“Biggest theft to hit an Egyptian museum in living memory”

August 22, 2013
Damaged pharaonic objects lie on the floor and in broken cases in the Malawi Antiquities Museum after it was ransacked and looted. (AP Photo/Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper)

Damaged pharaonic objects lie on the floor and in broken cases in the Malawi Antiquities Museum after it was ransacked and looted. (AP Photo/Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper)

Sadly, it was a matter of time before Egypt’s political turmoil resulted in the looting of art and artifacts.  The Associated Press reports more than 1,000 works were stolen from the Malawi Museum in Minya, “[T]he biggest theft to hit an Egyptian museum in living memory.”  The Ministry of State for Antiquities subsequently requested additional military and police to guard the Al-Bahnasa archaeological galleries following the receipt of an anonymous letter threatening to loot and set the galleries ablaze, reports ahramonline.  From Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire, a photographic inventory of the stolen objects and a statement from the UNESCO Director General about the looting.

Of the damage at the Museum, AP reports:

For days after vandals ransacked the building Wednesday, there were no police or soldiers in sight as groups of teenage boys burned mummies and broke limestone sculptures too heavy for the thieves to carry away. The security situation remained precarious Monday as gunmen atop nearby buildings fired on a police station near the museum.

Among the stolen antiquities was a statue of the daughter of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled during the 18th dynasty. Archaeologist Monica Hanna described it as a “masterpiece”. Other looted items included gold and bronze Greco-Roman coins, pottery and bronze-detailed sculptures of animals sacred to Thoth, a deity often represented with the head of an ibis or a baboon.

The museum’s ticket agent was killed during the storming of the building, according to the Antiquities Ministry.

Under the threat of sniper fire on Saturday, Hanna and a local security official were able to salvage five ancient Egyptian sarcophagi, two mummies and several dozen other items left behind by the thieves.

National Geographic has disturbing images of the damage along with this distressing “before” and “after”:

Devoted Couple Photograph by Salina Ikram, the American University in Cairo   A stone statue from the time of the great Egyptian pyramids (fifth dynasty, 2494-2345 B.C.) shows a man and his wife. It was likely placed in their tomb at the cemetery of Tehna as a focal point for the family, friends, and neighbors who visited to perform rituals of devotion.

Devoted Couple
Photograph by Salina Ikram, the American University in Cairo
A stone statue from the time of the great Egyptian pyramids (fifth dynasty, 2494-2345 B.C.) shows a man and his wife. It was likely placed in their tomb at the cemetery of Tehna as a focal point for the family, friends, and neighbors who visited to perform rituals of devotion.

Broken Marriage Photograph by Salina Ikram, the American University in Cairo   Marauding teenagers smashed this statue of the married couple from Tehna. "It was fine for almost 5,000 years until that moment," says Salima Ikram, a former National Geographic research grantee. Looters probably left it behind because it was too heavy to carry.

Broken Marriage
Photograph by Salina Ikram, the American University in Cairo
Marauding teenagers smashed this statue of the married couple from Tehna. “It was fine for almost 5,000 years until that moment,” says Salima Ikram, a former National Geographic research grantee. Looters probably left it behind because it was too heavy to carry.

 

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: