Monday, 2 May 2011

Egypt: Four More Artefacts Recovered

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Four authentic ancient Egyptian artefacts, two of which were reported stolen from the Egyptian Museum 28th have been retrieved today (Nevine El-Aref , Four more artefacts are back in the Egyptian museum, 2nd May 2011)
Today the tourism and antiquities police succeeded in retrieving four ancient Egyptian artefacts, two of which were reported missing from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir. The criminals were caught red-handed. Zahi Hawass, minister of state for antiquities affairs, assigned an archaeological committee headed by the Egyptian Museum Director, Tarek El-Awadi, to check on the authenticity of such pieces and whether they belong to the Egyptian museum. Hawass told Ahram Online that the four bronze statutes date to the Late Period. Two of them were from the Egyptian Museum that was looted during the January 25 Revolution. The statues depict the god of prosperity, Osiris, and the other two feature the god Harpocrate[s], which represents the god Osiris in his childhood. El-Awadi confirms that the other two are authentic items, but not from those on the list of the objects that are reported missing after the January Revolution. The committee is now investigating whether they are from any museum or archaeological site in Egypt. One of the statues is 37.5cm tall depicting the god Osiris and the second is an 18cm statue of the god Horus when he was a child. This brings the count of missing objects from the Egyptian museum to 31 objects out of 54 reported missing.
Well, except Hawass said on 12th April: "We are still missing 37 objects from the Egyptian Museum, but I hope that soon we will be able to find them all and return them to the Museum", and added the fan stock 62006 to the "still missing" list as was pointed out on this blog.

The two recovered statues probably are (no confirmation yet) Harpocrates JE 67925 (Missing list second version, page 27/42 from case P19 centre E vit Z) and the Osiris is presumably JE 22040 (Missing list second edition, page 4/42, P 19 S8 vit K). So they come from Room 19 like those in the 17th March 'sting', so were presumably part of the loot taken by men who were with Ahmed Attia Mahmod, the friend of his who owns a coffee shop in the same district and a third partner (the "coffee shop gang"). These three are perhaps (among) the guys who were imprisoned on or by the 15th April (?).

So these other men (the "May 2nd gang") were caught "red handed" - why have they only been apprehended now, and what were they doing when they were caught (and where)? It looks like these men were not among those who had been in the museum - because if they were part of the coffee-shop gang they would surely have been arrested soon after the other three, not six weeks later. Perhaps these (plural) newly-caught men may be dealers to whom the first men (the "coffee shop gang") had already managed to sell some items. It will be interesting to see where the other two items are determined to have been from. Were they omitted from the list of items taken from the Museum by mistake, or was the looting of the Museum not the ad hoc opportunistic event by "stupid" and disorientated thieves, but had some connection to an organized group involved in other antiquity looting?

It is possible therefore that some of the items taken by the group of men operating in the north and northwestern part of the museum had been sold before the 17th March sting. They may even have left the country before the three men selling the remaining 12 were arrested.

UPDATE 3/5/11: The Luxor Times confirms that the two museum statues were JE 67925 and JE 22040. The calcite base (modern) of the Osiris was apparently left in the Museum.

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