Rare Objects Missing From the Egyptian Museum
Now that the dust has settled a little in Cairo, a full inventory of the Egyptian Museum has been done to assess the damage. The AP reports that according to the Ministry of Antiquities 18 items were taken by looters. On January 28, during the turmoil and chaos around Tahrir Square, thieves climbed a fire escape to the museum's roof and lowered themselves on ropes from a glass-paneled ceiling to the museum's top floor. Around 70 objects were damaged but it wasn't known until an announcement on Sunday night that anything had gone missing. Among the casualties were two gilded wooden statues of King Tut.
The most important object missing is the limestone statue of the Pharaoh Akhenaten standing and holding an offering table (shown above). Akhenaten, a Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty who was Tut's father and the husband of Queen Nefertiti, died around 1334 B.C. He stands out in history because during his reign he switched Egyptian religious ceremony from a vibrant polytheism to the worshiping of a single god of gods known as the Aten, a solar deity. It didn't take root. After his death, Egypt slowly returned to its prior religious practices and many of the traces of the reign of this pharaoh were eliminated.
Other pieces that have gone missing include a statue of Nefertiti, a heart scarab and wooden funerary statuettes. Thieves did not enter the gated room containing the gold funerary mask of Tutankhamun and other valuable items from the rare discovery of his tomb. The Egyptian Museum is still closed and is guarded by an army unit. Plans are being developed to better protect the museum's glass ceiling section.
Before the recent uprising Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities head, Zahi Hawass, had been fighting a tireless battle to have antiquities in museum's around the world return to Egypt. Just days before the events in Cairo, Egypt made a formal request that Germany return the 3,400 year-old bust of fabled Queen Nefertiti in the Neues Museum in Berlin to Egypt. Cairo has been asking for the return of the statue since the 1930s and it has remained at the top of Hawass' "wish list" of items he'd most like to see returned to Egypt.
UPDATE: Zahi Hawass has said that some objects including the Heart Scarab and a small Ushabti statue were found. The Akhenaten statue is still missing.
SECOND UPDATE: Egyptian antiquities authorities have recovered the statue of Akhenaten. A protestor had found the statue lying on the ground outside the museum in central Cairo during the demonstrations.
|Yes, now is the time for the world to make this gesture.||18 (31.6%)|
|No. Antiquities should stay in the museums around the world where they are already located.||28 (49.1%)|
|Maybe at some point but not now.||11 (19.3%)|
The Akenhaten statue can be seen in the video below which offers a tour of the museum.