Saturday, 21 January 2012

Another Object Back in the Cairo Museum?

Dr Zahi Hawass has recently published a new blog post (A Good Italian Family, and an Update on What I have been Doing Lately) to assure those who are interested that he is doing well and still writing:
My book on antiquities and the 2011 Revolution is almost finished. I have just finished chapter 13, and I still need to write two more chapters. These two chapters will be the most important ones in the book. I will publish this book first in English, and then in Arabic.
I hope I will be able to get hold of a copy of that, it will be interesting to see what will be said about the events in Cairo Museum on 28th Jan 2011, whether the story will be substantially different from what he said earlier. My own personal examination of the traces left in the Museum indicate an entirely different scenario.

Quite astounding is the reference almost en passant:
I also met not long ago with 14 members of the press from Germany and Korea. I talked to them about what happened at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo during the Revolution, and how the young people protected the Museum with their bodies [yawn - PMB]. Although one piece that was stolen, an 18.5 cm statuette of the cat-goddess Bastet, has been returned to the Museum recently, we are still missing around 28 objects. Most of them are bronze statuettes dated to the Late Period (about 500 B.C.).
What the....? The Bastet figure is still on the last version (28th March 2011) of the list of missing objects (though with a different measurement), if the Museum have found that too (returned, seized or simply found in a dark corner of the storeroom?), then why are they not telling anyone they can stop looking for it? Have these people ANY intention of at last updating that "missing objects" list (like with the two that turned up in August) and making it public? If not, is there a specific reason why they are not bothering? Totally incomprehensible behaviour from the museum professionals in Cairo.

Also quite interesting that this seems these days to be such non-news (when surely the Egyptian museum prfessionals should be keeping continuing the search for the missing items at the forefront of public attention) that the reporters he spoke to seem not to have made any use of this news-scoop (unless I missed something).

As for what is still missing, as we come up to the first anniversary of the thefts, perhaps it is time to attempt a recap. I make it that 24 items of those initially reported stolen are back (or were never removed from the Museum in the first place). The ('sting') recovery of 17/3/11 retrieved 7 objects from room 19 and 5 from room 6. The recovery of 27/3/11 (Khan el Khalili) was of five objects from Room 19 and no other. The next four (the bag in the station 12 April 2011) were from three areas of the Museum, gallery 40, 13 and 43 at the other end. The most recent recovery (May 2nd) was of two statues from room 19, which were found with two other statues from somewhere else (where was never revealed). Then it turned out embarrassingly that at least two were never missing (Youm 7: 'Two archeological pieces of Egyptian Museum found', Aug 2, 2011).

Despite these successes in retrieving these items, there are still a number of items missing. It is not at all true that "most of them are bronze statuettes dated to the Late Period (about 500 B.C.)".

TWO items from Tutankhamun tomb (P 40 and P 30 it says, but they were in the same case): JE 60716.1 the shrouded Tutankhamun from the Menkaret figure, JE 60713 Tutankhamun in Red Crown striding with staff and flail. [there has been talk that another Tutankhamun fan was taken from the case containing the fans and walking sticks in Room 13, but is not on any list - fan stock 62006 - see here].

NINE wooden shabtis of Yuya and Thuya, all missing from P 43 vit 13 or thereabouts. JE 68983 etc, JE 68984 etc, JE 68987 etc, JE 68989, JE 68992 etc, JE 68993 etc, JE 68994 etc, JE 68995 etc, JE 68998 etc, (JE 68984 was previously reported as recovered in the Shubra Metro Station "find" but that was a mistake).

A group of SEVEN Amarna figures from R8 centre Vit K on the ground floor: JE 44867 - Nefertiti offering bearer, JE 44873 - Amarna princess, JE 44874 - Amarna princess, JE 52976 - Seated man, JE 53250 - Steatite Bes, JE 59291 seated scribe and Thoth/baboon, JE 65040 - head of Amarna princess (The only object from the ground floor gallery retrieved to date was the Akhenaton statue found in mysterious circumstances "in the garbage" near Tahrir Square 16th February 2011).

A group of SIX (actually 15) small objects from P48 Vit 2 and two other cases in this room: JE 27326, limestone statue of woman, JE 39590 limestone shabti Tuna el-Gebel,JE55175 lapis lazuli beads Ahmose Merytamun TT358, JE 94481, ten faience amulets from Thebes (should be treated as ten items), JE 29357 - Greco-Roman Apis bull, JE 30204 Striding figure of Nakht, Meir.

FOUR (THREE?) items from P 19: JE 36598, Bastet (the one that is now back?), JE 9080 Statue of Onuris, TR bronze false beard, TR bronze false beard.

ONE item from P6 centre vit A JE 47906 gold and faience beads, Saqqara dyn 18.

I make it that 28 are missing plus the Bastet which is said to be back in the Museum. They fall into several distinct groups, mostly figurines and jewellery. More importantly, the objects which have been coming back in dribs and drabs were taken from several distinct areas of the museum (and that includes the unconfirmed return of the Bastet figure), and those that are still missing come from several distinct areas of the collection. I do not think this pattern is accidental.

So, this returned Bastet figure, where was it found, when, in what circumstances and who was arrested? Has anyone heard any more about this?

hat-tip to Kate Phizackerley for first spotting the original post

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