Antiquities and Archaeology Egypt

List of looted antiquities finally released

Ministry admits 54 objects were stolen from the Egyptian Museum

Lost treasure: gilded statue of Menkaret carrying Tutankhamun. A site at Abusir was also targeted by thieves during the political upheaval

cairo. On 15 March Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities issued a revised list of objects stolen from Cairo’s Egyptian Museum on 28 January. On 2 February, minister of antiquities Zahi Hawass, who has since resigned, reported that there had been no thefts. On 12 February he retracted this statement, announcing 18 losses (four items were subsequently recovered). The latest list comprises 54 antiquities, including a gilded statue of Menkaret carrying Tutank-hamun (12 were subsequently recovered). It is now clear that the thieves selected high-quality portable items.

The delay in announcing the losses has inevitably reduced the chance of recoveries. The perfunctory details of the objects and the poor quality images of the missing items suggests that the museum (the world’s most important collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts) has poor records and that its contingency planning for an emergency was woefully inadequate.

The thefts from the Egyptian Museum were only the first of a series of looting incidents.

The Art Newspaper has assembled data on Pharaonic sites that have been damaged since the political crisis in late January, based on information released by Hawass. At various points he may have minimised or maximised the apparent damage (depending on the political situation and his own position), but his statements have been the only authoritative national source on losses. Since his resignation, few official announcements have been made and there are concerns that the situation may have worsened.

In addition to the Pharaonic sites, there has also been damage to Islamic sites: in Alexandria (Kom el Nadoura), Esna (Wekhalit el Jeddawi), Gamalia (Kléber Tower), Huseeom (Wekhalit el Haramin) and Tanta (Sabeel of Ali Bey Al-Kabir).

Egypt’s heritage under attack

Abusir: Storage facility broken into. Inscribed blocks stolen from tomb of Ptahshepses. Illegal excavations

Abydos: Looters attacked site “nearly every night” in March. Illegal trenches dug, some as deep as 5m

Alexandria: Illegal excavations

Aswan: Looters intercepted trying to steal statue of Ramesses II

Behaira: Illegal excavations

Cairo: Egyptian Museum has lost 42 items (after recoveries) and 70 objects damaged

Dashur: New York Metropolitan Museum’s expedition store attacked twice. Illegal excavations

Giza: Tomb of Em-pi entered. Two stores entered (including Selim Hassan store)

Ismailia: Tomb of Ken-Amun in Tell el-Maskhuta “completely destroyed”. Illegal excavations

Northern Sinai: Unnamed site “destroyed”

Qantara East: Store broken into, with several boxes of objects stolen (292 items later recovered)

Saqqara: “Many” tombs opened (architectural fragments stolen from tomb of Hetepka). Illegal excavations near the pyramid of Merenre and the Mastaba Fara’un. Store attacked. Illegal construction on antiquities land

Sharm el-Sheikh: Stores at Tell el-Basta and Wadi el-Feiran broken into

Sharqia: Illegal excavations

Tell el-Fara’in (Buto): Store attacked (objects from five boxes stolen or damaged)

More from The Art Newspaper


24 Mar 11
21:58 CET


Sadly that long list might not be complete. There are worrying reports for instance about the tomb of Qar at Saqqara, although they are so far from a single source only (Le Monde).

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