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