Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Yuya Shabti "not damaged"?

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The shabti of Yuya (JE 68984) found lying in a bag at Shubra metro station was said to be undamaged. In the Luxor Times photo however a very large split in the wood can be seen on the front of the object going through the upper part of the ten lines of inscription. This split is not visible in the photos in the second [horizontal format] version of the (undated, untitled) list of objects missing from Cairo Museum* (on page 30/42). While this is heavily pixilated, no trace of such a split can be seen there. It would seem that the object has been subjected to a change of environment (humidity) since it was last photographed in the Museum and has suffered accordingly. The question is does this mean that it was hidden in a changed environment (like being buried, or stuffed in a humid cellar for example) or even that it was removed from Cairo? The object has also lost the base on which it was displayed in the case. I personally would say it is extremely reckless to put this object back on display immediately (which is what the Museum's director announced is what he planned to do) instead of taking it into the conservation lab and putting it under close observation and studying it to see what has caused the change in its condition and whether this is an ongoing process. Once it is in a showcase the possibilities of doing this are lessened.

It is worth noting that some of the fragments of the gesso facing of the wooden fan stock (JE 62006) are reported not to have been in the bag when it was recovered, suggesting that the fragmentation of the object also occurred in storage in its hiding place. This suggests that the longer the rest of the objects are in the hands of the thieves, or whoever has them now, it seems the worse will be the condition of some of them if and when they return to the Museum.

Forensic examination of the big black bag they were found in might reveal something about the thieves. Is it already in the hands of police scientists, like the rope on which the thieves reputedly entered the Museum?

UPDATE: OK, I admit I failed to look at the photos of all the missing shabtis, just took the Museum's word for it which object it was - see Vincent's comments below and the resultant blog post here. Now I look again, the hieroglyphs don't match the Museum's proposed 'identification'.

*Let us hope the third version of the "objects missing" list produced by the Cairo museum will have a sequential numbering of objects (or proper pagination), and have a proper title page with the date it was published on it.

Vignette: how many other museum-worthy finds in private hands are cracking up because they are kept in unsuitable environmental conditions (photo: Luxor Times magazine)?

2 comments:

Vincent said...

Hi Paul,

I have put together three images that explain the crack. The returned shabti has been wrongly identified as JE 68984, which is not cracked. It is in fact JE 68982, which does have a crack.

Here is the link:

http://flic.kr/p/9yoN9P

Paul Barford said...

Oh my goodness. And the internet is full of pictures of them sitting down earnestly fondling their copies of the printout of the untitled list ticking off the objects as they come back. Good to know that somebody is on the ball, even if the Egyptian authorities seem not to be. This is the second time now, the sceptre confusion comes to mind. Thanks Vincent.

 
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