Saturday 29 January 2011

The Damage in Cairo Museum

On Friday night (28th) the National Democratic party headquarters was entered by a mob, who looted it (carried off furniture and computers etc) and then set it on fire. This building stands right next to The Egyptian Museum overlooking Tahrir Square in Cairo’s city centre. The building continued to burn on Saturday into the evening and there are fears it might collapse onto the museum (the smoke is not doing delicate organic artefacts in the museum much good either). In comments to the Al Arabiya television channel well-known Egyptian film director Khaled Youssef had called on the army to ensure the museum was protected.

Then reports came in that people were seen to attempt to enter the Museum compound:
Then dozens of would-be thieves started entering the grounds surrounding the museum, climbing over the metal fence or jumping inside from trees lining the sidewalk outside. One man pleaded with people outside the museum's gates on Tahrir Square not to loot the building, shouting at the crowd: "We are not like Baghdad." [...] Suddenly other young men — some armed with truncheons taken from the police — formed a human chain outside the main entrance in an attempt to protect the collection inside. "I'm standing here to defend and to protect our national treasure," said one of the men, Farid Saad, a 40-year-old engineer. Another man, 26-year-old Ahmed Ibrahim, said it was important to guard the museum because it "has 5,000 years of our history. If they steal it, we'll never find it again." Finally, four armored vehicles took up posts outside the massive coral-colored building in downtown Cairo. Soldiers surrounded the building and moved inside to protect mummies, monumental stone statues, ornate royal jewelry and other pharaonic artifacts. The soldiers appeared to have rounded up all the would-be looters who made it onto the museum grounds and had lined them up in a row. As the soldiers corralled one man toward the line, crowds outside the fence shouted, "Thief, thief!" A couple the troops then hit the man with the butts of their rifles and sat him down with the others apparently caught inside.
Then it seems that a human chain was formed by concerned citizens outside the museum, to keep would-be looters out. Meanwhile some armoured cars took up positions outside the museum and Egyptian army commandos secured the building and its grounds early Saturday morning.

Then reports came in Saturday afternoon through Reuters that looters had broken into the darkened Museum late on Friday
and destroyed two Pharaonic mummies, Egypt’s top archaeologist told state television.[...] "I felt deeply sorry today when I came this morning to the Egyptian Museum and found that some had tried to raid the museum by force last night,” Zahi Hawass, chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said on Saturday. "Egyptian citizens tried to prevent them and were joined by the tourism police, but some [looters] managed to enter from above and they destroyed two of the mummies,” he said.
It was unclear at this stage whether the mummies destroyed were royal mummies or not, or which mummies they were.

Then later on Saturday, Al-Jazeera broadcast video of the damage at the Museum. The damage shown is certainly more than a few mummies, though it certainly appears that there are now soldiers in the Museum. The initial reports seem to have been downplaying what was clearly a much more serious incident. Note that alongside the damage - some of it apparently wanton smashing, but some objects seem to be missing, there are plastic cups and cigarettes lying on the floor. One sequence shows a number of small items wrapped in a red piece of cloth (shirt?) for removal, but for some reason abandoned, together with some wooden figures thrown around. I am not sure what galleries are shown, maybe a reader can tell us. Pictures and the video here (Veken Gueyikian and Hrag Vartanian's stunning coverage 'Breaking: Images of Egyptian Museum Damage [UPDATE 34] King Tut Objects Damaged?' in their Hyperallergic blog)

A report later on Saturday gave a few more details:
"They managed to stop them," Hawass said. He added that the would-be looters only managed to vandalize two mummies, ripping their heads off. They also cleared out the museum gift shop. He said the museum's prized King Tutankhamun exhibit, which includes the boy pharaoh's gold death mask, had not been damaged and was safe. An Associated Press Television News crew that was allowed into the museum saw two vandalized mummies and at least 10 small artifacts that had been taken out of their glass cases and damaged.
Zahi Hawass told the media on Saturday that the men had been caught and detained by army soldiers, and that they had not stolen any of the museum's antiquities, and that the collection was now safe and under military guard. Hawass said he believes the artefacts can be reconstructed as nothing was removed from museum grounds.

Although earlier reports had mentioned just two men, later reports revealed that the damage to the museum was caused by nine men described as "convicts" who "broke artifacts and attempted to steal two mummies". The men
were forced to leave the mummies behind when they broke into pieces as they carried the ancient artifacts towards the museum doors. A reporter from Al-Masry Al-Youm’s Arabic edition saw the damage this morning and Al-Arabeya news channel has been showing the first footage shot within the museum Saturday afternoon. Glass display cases were broken, although the ancient Egyptian jewels inside were not taken. Statues were broken into pieces and sarcophagi were displaced. Zahi Hawass, the Head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, made a statement this morning that all the artifacts were still in the museum, although many had been broken. According to Hawass, about 1,000 people looted the museum's gift shop and grounds. Later nine people carrying mummy skulls were arrested as they tried to leave through emergency exits.
it is not clear if these were the individuals seen being beaten by soldiers mentioned in the earlier report.

See also

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.