Statues of Tutankhamun damaged at the Egyptian Museum

For the latest updates, see the new blog post.
UPDATE Jan 30th, 12pm: the mummies of Tutankhamun’s great-grandparents damaged?
UPDATE Jan 30th, 2pm: golden fan of Tut damaged, Dr. Zahi Hawass confirms damage to at least one Tut statue
UPDATE Jan 30th, 4:30pm: confirmation of theft from the former director of the Egyptian Museum; Memphis Museum also looted
UPDATE Jan 30th, 5:30pm: statement from Dr. Zahi Hawass posted on his blog
UPDATE Jan 31st, 11am: at least two of Tutankhamun’s gilded statues safe
UPDATE Jan 31st, 1:40pm: new photo showing damaged mummy heads, Hawass appointed Minister of Antiquities
UPDATE Jan 31st, 2:50pm: damaged mummies very unlikely to be Yuya & Tjuya
UPDATE Jan 31st, 3:50pm: raw footage used by Al Jazeera shows Tut figure from panther statue still in the museum
UPDATE Jan 31st, 11:20pm: various reports about extensive damage or lack thereof at Saqqara & Abusir from an Egyptian antiquities inspector, Professor Miroslav Bárta, & Dr. Hawass
UPDATE Feb 1st, 12:45am: two new photos of damage from the Egyptian Museum
UPDATE Feb 1st, 9:40pm: another update from Dr. Hawass and further worrying reports suggesting damage/looting at Saqqara & Abusir
UPDATE Feb 2nd, 12:45am: Facebook group Egyptologists for Egypt says reliefs from the tomb of Maia at Saqqara hacked out EDITED-Maia or Maya?
UPDATE Feb 2nd, 11pm: further suggestions of looting at Saqqara; Salima Ikram trying to assess the situation on the ground
UPDATE Feb 3rd, 9:20am: Salima Ikram reporting from Saqqara
UPDATE Feb 3rd, 4pm: another statement from Dr. Zahi Hawass, photos from the museum, including one of the mummies
UPDATE Feb 4th, 1am: an update from the Dutch team at Saqqara says Abusir & Saqqara looted, a report of pharaonic statues seized in Algeria
UPDATE Feb 4th, 11:50pm: more reports of Saqqara & Abusir under attack, Dr. Hawass says untrue; a report from the Fayum; and supposedly looted statues in Algeria are fakes
UPDATE Feb 5th: for the latest updates, see the new blog post

Devastating footage from Al Jazeera posted on Twitter and Flickr now shows significant damage and destruction in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Some of these images can be found at these sites. The footage appears to show wooden statues from the tomb of Tutankhamun with the gilded figure of the king ripped from the smashed bases. Images below show the statues in their original state, and their current condition:

Gilded statue of Tutankhamun hunting on a papyrus skiff
Gilded statue of Tutankhamun hunting on a papyrus skiff
Gilded statue of Tutankhamun astride a panther

Tut boat
tut panther

Middle Kingdom models of daily life and their have been smashed. The damage on the famous army of Mehseti doesn’t seem to be too severe thankfully, but other beautiful models are broken and strewn on the floor.

Soldiers of Mehseti, Asyut, 11th dynasty
Soldiers of Mehseti, Asyut, 11th dynasty

assiut soldiers

model boat

It is an incredibly sad state of affairs as we await news of the full extent of this destruction of history.
UPDATE: I’ve now identified the smashed wooden boat as also belonging to the tomb of Meseti at Asyut (Cairo 4918). It’s one of the largest model boats in existence, measuring over 1.5 metres, and it dates to approximately 2000BC, so over it’s 4000 years old. Very sad.
Here’s a photo of it from it’s original publication back in 1913, but you can also follow this link to see a photo of it as it looked in the museum.
meseti boat
UPDATE: Watching the actual video footage of the museum from Al Jazeera, I regret to say that I think you can spot at the 1 minute mark (see a screen capture and the video itself below), footage of another destroyed statue of Tutankhamun, one of the two statues depicted below (photos care of the Griffith Institute Archive‘s Tutankhamun collection). Amendment, Jan 31st: it appears that these gilded sandaled feet also belong to the panther statue. See update from Jan 31st, 11am below for further info.
For a colour photo of these statues, see these photos from the blog of Richard Seaman.
Tut feet 2

ANOTHER UPDATE, 30th Jan 12pm:
In the comments, Tamakazura has correctly identified the gilded open work cartonnage case shown on Al Jazeera as belonging to Tjuya, mother of the great Queen Tiye and great-grandmother of Tutankhamun. Below you can compare a photo from The Complete Valley of the Kings, p. 176 and the still from Al Jazeera. The case was placed directly on Tjuya’s body, so it is doubtful that it could have been removed without damaging her mummy. This suggests that the two mummies mentioned by Dr. Zahi Hawass as being beheaded and severely damaged may be those of Yuya and Tjuya. Aiden Dodson has been able to confirm that the case was displayed separately from Tjuya, so her mummy has not been damaged. They are important historical figures as well as two of the best preserved mummies from ancient Egypt, so it would indeed be tragic if this is true. I hope that the incredible burial assemblage found with them, one of the most celebrated discoveries in Egyptology, has not suffered also.

Also, in this Al Jazeera report, Dr. Zahi Hawass, comments on the damage at the museum:

UPDATE, 30th Jan 2pm:
The gold fan head featured in the Al Jazeera footage appears to be a fan belonging to Tutankhamun. Here is a photo from the original excavations courtesy of the Griffith Institute- the fan in question is on the far left- and a screen shot of the fan lying in the museum. At least it appears that only the shaft has been broken off and the decoration has been left intact.

Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, has confirmed damage to at least one statue of Tutankhamun. I fear it may be more, but I hope that Dr. Hawass is correct that the damage is minimal. At least his comments are reassuring about the current security situation at the museum, as well as some inspiring words for the Egyptians who attempted to protect the museum.

UPDATE, 30th Jan 4:30pm:
Zeit Online (in German and translated into English) has posted an interview with Wafaa el-Saddik, the director of the Egyptian Museum up until very recently, who says that 13 cases have been smashed, some objects have definitely been stolen, the looting of the museum was an inside job by guards and police, and that the museum in Memphis has also been looted.
UPDATE, 30th Jan 5:30pm: Dr. Zahi Hawass has posted a statement on his own blog. He confirms the destruction of one of the Tutankhamun panther statues. I should also clarify concerning the Tutankhamun statues that have been smashed, that each of them belongs to a pair of statues, and one can only hope that the statues’ twins have survived the damage. See below for images from the wonderful Griffith Institute of the statues as they were found in situ in the Valley of the Kings:

I should also mention that this Al Jazeera screen capture shows a soldier uprooted from the great model army of Meseti, from Asyut, which I mentioned above. At least four of these figures appear to have been torn from the 4000 year old model.

UPDATE, 31st Jan 11am:

In the comments, Mellady mentions that two of the gilded Tutankhamun statues, which are mentioned above shown wearing the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt (the ones *not* on the papyrus boat or the panther), are probably still on tour in the USA with the ‘Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs’ tour. You can see photos of the statues in questions on at these exhibition links. The exhibition was just in New York until January 17th, 2011, and it’s due to open again in St. Paul, Minnesota on February 18th, 2011. If you factor in the time needed to move the objects and set up the new exhibition space, they must be in one of those cities. I have contacted the exhibition organisers to see if I can confirm this. This would suggest that the broken sandalled feet shown in the Al Jazeera footage belong to the figure of Tutankhamun from the panther statue.

Other objects shown in the footage but difficult to specifically identify appear to include a smashed shabti figurine, a bronze statuette of the Apis bull, a travertine calcite (alabaster) vessel, faience jewellery, and a faience hippo figurine from Lisht. The large wooden statue shown in the screen capture below comes from the Meseti boat model. Another model figure shown in the footag, kneeling and armless, also appears to be from the same model.

There are worrying reports of archaeological sites and museums around the country being targeted but no concrete information as of yet. Nevertheless, I am still inspired and awed by the valiant efforts of ordinary Egyptian citizens taking a stand to protect the heritage of which they are so proud. For whatever damage has been done, it’s possible that it could have been much worse without their help. My focus on this site is on the artefacts because that is what I’m best able to comment on, but my thoughts are with the Egyptian people.
mehseti man

UPDATE, 31st Jan 1:40pm:

Via Kate Phizackerley: there is now a photo, purportedly from the Associated Press, showing two damaged mummy heads, posted on this site. I’m not sure about the source of this photo, but the mummies don’t look particularly like Yuya or Tjuya. It’s possible that severe damage has may them harder to identify, or we could be dealing with different individuals. Also, Dr. Zahi Hawass has reportedly been appointed to the new government position of Minister of Antiquities, and Gaber Asfour has been named Minister of Culture.

UPDATE, 31st Jan 2:50pm:
According to Egyptologist Aidan Dodson, the damaged mummies are very unlikely to be Yuya and Tjuya: ‘the gold mummy-cover of Tjuiu was not actually on her body any more… Both mummies were inside their coffins – the photo of Tjuiu shown earlier was from an old display of 1910.’
UPDATE, 31st Jan 3:50pm:
Raw video footage that has emerged on youTubeis no longer on youTube showing more images than first seen on Al Jazeera, including the gilded figure of Tutankhamun from the panther statue, lying in another case at the 0:50 mark. This confirms that the statue was not removed from the museum at the time of damage.

UPDATE Jan 31st, 11:20pm:
There are a number of reports out there, from various people such as an Egyptian antiquities inspector and Professor Miroslav Bárta, suggesting that there may have been a fair amount of damage at Saqqara & Abusir. However, we don’t have much concrete information yet. Dr. Hawass has stated that while tombs have indeed been broken into, nothing has been taken damaged. Vincent Brown’s Talking Pyramids site has a very good compilation of all these reports. In terms of following future stories about the archaeological situation in Egypt, Kate Phizackerley has set up a database of information on sites and museums.

UPDATE Feb 1st, 12:45am:
In the comments, Nicko kindly directed me to some new AP photos of damage in the Egyptian Museum. The two new images appear to show a smashed and emptied case in the foreground with a few gilded canes and sticks lying on top. In the background, you can see the display of chariots and off to the right, the huge golden shrines of Tutankhamun. National Geographic now has a higher resolution version of one of the photos, which shows that Tut’s gold fan mentioned above is also lying on top of the case. A large number of staff, canes, and sticks were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, shown in the following photos from the Griffith Institute Archive, and it is possible that some these are shown in the images.

I would also like to thank everyone who has contributed to the discussion in the comments and I’m sorry I haven’t had the time to reply to all your remarks!

UPDATE Feb 1st, 9:40pm:

Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, released another statement earlier today stating that 288 objects stolen from the magazine in Qantara have been returned. [Considering the magazine reportedly contained 3000 objects, this may not be the best news] He says that 70 objects in the Egyptian Museum suffered damage, including the Tutankhamun panther statue, but it should be possible to repair them. He notes that most of the damage was done because the looters couldn’t see what they were doing in the dark. He says that all other museums and sites are now safe, being guarded by the army and also local Egyptians.

An excellent article at The Art of Counting has reports from a number of Egyptologists. The article states that Maarten Raven, an Egyptologist at the Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, says that the Dutch excavation projects at Saqqara have been looted and destroyed. Richard Wilkinson at the University of Arizona says that the army and neighbourhood watch groups are protecting sites on the west bank at Luxor. Carol Redmount at Berkeley states: “Mme Nadia visited El Hibeh today and said the site has been looted, but should be okay from now on as they are expecting guards to be in place. I also heard that Ihnasya el Medinah had been hit. The Beni Suef Museum is safe.”

UAE newspaper the National also has varying reports about possible damage at Abusir and Saqqara. A rather sensationalist article in the British tabloid the Sun has reported extensive damage at Abusir and in the magazine in Qantara. Overall, there are very worrying reports, especially from Saqqara and Abusir, but also reassurance about many other sites.

Human Rights Watch’s emergencies director Peter Bouckaert is reported to have stated that some of the looters at the Egyptian Museum and elsewhere were found to have been carrying police identification cards. A further approximate 50 individuals have been detained by the army trying to break into the museum.

UPDATE Feb 2nd, 12:45am:

The Facebook group Egyptologists for Egypt has posted the following information: ‘From our Senior Guide. A Sakkara inspector told him that in the last few days Sakkara has been ransacked. Maia is destroyed and even the reliefs in the burial chamber have been hacked out. There is mass digging around the Unas area in particular. The inspector could not get as far as the Teti area as he was threatened with guns but the mastabas will have suffered the same fate. A black day (via P.Allingham).’

This information does not make it clear whether the tomb referred to is that of Maia, wet nurse of Tutankhamun, or that of Maya, the Overseer of the Treasury and Overseer of Works under Tutankhamun. I originally assumed because of the spelling that it was more likely to refer to the lady Maia, but I should stress that with very little information so far, we cannot really be sure. Because of the comments on the damage by the Dutch Mission it seems more likely that Maya’s tomb is the one that has been hit. I’m posting information about both tombs below until we can get any further news. Either way, if the reports are true, then it seems that artefacts from that particular period of Egyptian history have suffered especially.

Dr. Maarten Raven, the Field Director of the Dutch Mission, has posted this statement: ‘There are various reports circulating on the internet about widespread looting in Saqqara and Abusir. However, we would like to stress that so far we have not been able to obtain any confirmation of this, except the following. On Saturday 29 January our restoration architect in Cairo told us that his contractor at Saqqara confirmed the looting in Saqqara. On Sunday 30 January the SCA Director of Saqqara told us that the site of the Dutch expedition has been involved in the looting. He would or could not give further details, and that is still the current situation. We have so far been unable to establish direct contact with people who know more.’
I suggest following the Egyptological Looting Database for further updates on the Saqqara.

The tomb of Maya and his wife Merit was originally discovered by Lepsius in 1843 and then lost until its rediscovery in 1986 by a joint mission of the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden and the EES. Maya served under both Tutankhamun and Horemheb.

The tomb of Maya, Overseer of the Treasury, from the Dutch Excavations
The tomb of Maya, Overseer of the Treasury, from the Dutch Excavations

Maia was the wet nurse of Tutankhamun and a high ranking woman. Her tomb was discovered at Saqqara in 1997 by Alain Zivie and the French Mission (info in English). The following video shows scenes from the tomb of Maia with Alain Zivie.

A relief from the tomb depicting Maia and the young Tutankhamun
Photo of a tomb relief depicting Maia and the young Tutankhamun

UPDATE Feb 2nd, 11pm:

No further news of sites being attacked today, hopefully this is a good sign, but there have been a few note-worthy posts on the Facebook group Restore + save the Egyptian Museum, which I’d recommend following for updates directly from Egyptologists, some relayed from the field. I’m posting screen captures of them below: another report of Saqqara looting, a pledge by Dr. Salima Ikram in Egypt to gather further info about sites, and an impassioned plea from Tahrir Square by a member of the group. Also, the IAE has posted this statement and Dr. Mark Lehner, director of the Giza Plateau Mapping Project, is still planning to head out to Egypt next week.
sarah saqqara

UPDATE Feb 3rd, 9:20am:

Peter Allingham reports on behalf of Dr. Salima Ikram from Saqqara, again from the very helpful Facebook group Restore + save the Egyptian Museum:
salima 2

Update: Feb 3rd, 4pm:

Dr. Zahi Hawass has posted another statement reassuring everyone about the safety and security of the museum and other sites, and has uploaded photos from the museum showing the heavy security in place. Dr. Hawass also expresses his frustration with reports of damage elsewhere, which he insists is not true, including Saqqara. I hope he will understand that the only reason everyone is concerned about possible damage is because of our love for Egypt and its incredible antiquities. The photos on Dr. Hawass’ site also include a new image of one of the damaged mummies’ heads (still unidentified) and the broken vitrine with the fan and canes.

Update: Feb 4th, 1am:

A news update from the Dutch excavation team at Saqqara:
‘Thursday 3 February 14:00 – A reliable source in Cairo (who had this directly from one of the SCA inspectors at Saqqara) confirmed that the Czech magazine at Abusir and the Cairo University magazine at Saqqara have been looted. No confirmation could be had about private tombs. Apparently doors have been forcibly opened but whether reliefs have been taken is not clear. The inspectors themselves have not yet had access to all parts of the site.’

A story from the Times of Algeria posted by Kate says that two pharonic statues were found in the possession of four individuals who have now been arrested. There are no images or further details so the identification of the statues might not necessarily be accurate.

Update: Feb 4th, 11:50pm:

Two reports from CultureGrrl and Science said to be from unnamed Egyptologists say that there has been a lot of damage in Saqqara and Abusir, while another statement from Dr. Zahi Hawass says that the reports are untrue.

A report from the Hungarian team at Lahun says there has been some illicit digging in the Fayum area but an attempted looting of Karanis magazine was stopped by the SCA and local Egyptians.

The story from Algeria yesterday about smuggled stolen Egyptian statues being found turns out only to involve fakes, which is apparent from the new photo that has been posted.

104 Replies to “Statues of Tutankhamun damaged at the Egyptian Museum”

  1. I want to know how the group of looters that entered via the skylight were related to the security/museum police involved in the crime…

  2. Look this happens most every time there is a uprising. There are always some who see it as an opportunity to enrich themselves. It’s a shame for sure, but I think we will find it is far less then could have been expected.

  3. People need to let go of the past. Stop clinging on oldies and dust. This is a revolution, and it’s about the Egyptians youth, not some wood in a museum. I can hear the “white” people being so sad about wood and not caring about the 150 dead kids in Egypt!!!

    This is a revolution, and the Egyptians should also destroy theses pyramids that attract all the dumb fat german and chinese tourists. They’ll be better off with an egypt different than an amusement park for senior citizens.

    Let go. Move on. These are just objects.

  4. The comments by several contributors to this blog justifying the reluctance on the part of some European and American institutions to return artifacts to countries such as Egypt because of the vandalism that occurred in the wake of the recent unrest there reflects no small amount of cultural bigotry. Such views seem to be informed by the old, outmoded, and even racist notion that the US and northern European industrialized nations are inherently “civilized,” and that the destruction of art during a national crisis somehow means that Egypt is not. The instances of theft and destruction of art in the West despite our wealth and security are too numerous to list here. If the West is so civilized how do we account for the vast numbers of cultural treasures destroyed in Germany during World War II? As an art historian I was struck by the bravery of the Egyptians who made a “human chain” in front of the museum to protect their cultural heritage from even further damage. We should ask ourselves, wherever we live, if we would be able to muster such bravery to risk suffering physical harm or even death in order to protect what are essentially material objects (even if they are extraordinary rare and important ones) should civil authority be lacking.

    Western cultural institutions possess huge numbers of art works from beyond their current national borders. Many were obtained under the circumstances of colonial domination offensive to our contemporary moral conscience. The legal justification for the return of the small proportion of artifacts to other countries has often been based on the fact that those artifacts were obtained illegally in the first place. We should be proud of the return of cultural treasures by Western institutions to their rightful owners as examples of our ethics and justice.

  5. Martin, a week ago I would have been right there with you.

    I no longer believe anything Hawass has to say on this, considering that his story has changed more often than his socks. First the Tut exhibit was completely secure. Then “they tried to get in but were unsuccessful.” Then there was “some” damage. I suppose only time will tell what damage was actually done and what may actually be missing, assuming Mr. Hawass allows that information out of Egypt, which I doubt because it makes him look bad.

    Just so you know, I have never liked Hawass, so this event has not changed my mind regarding him.

  6. Ces destructions de notre passé historique sont terribles! Le régime de Moubarak et ses nervis ont réprimé avec violence les contestataires et n’ont pas voulu protéger les trésors du Musée national du Caire. Pourquoi? Parce que ce sont des salopards, des criminels, qui n’ont aucun respect pour rien!

    These destructions of our historical Past are dreadful! The government of Moubarak and his mercenaries have repressed with violence the protesters and did not wish to protect the treasures of the National Museum of Cairo. Why? Because they are bastards, criminals, who have no respect for nothing!

  7. In reply to JHS: You’re arguing semantics and must not know very much about the man himself or the ability of what one might do in a situation like this. YOU cannot say that he did or did not do anything any more than I can, but it can be assumed that HE is not to be blamed for the museum being breached and looted. Scholarly referencing or not, does the point not still stand that Hawass is one of the “go to” men regarding Egyptology and that he DOES have tight control over their local artifacts? Must everything be reported as if through an abstract to be credible still, if you only cease to argue the arrangement of wording? It remains true nonetheless.

    In reply to spectacular: You obviously have no idea what these “objects” mean. I beg you to take your extreme ignorance elsewhere.

  8. In reply to David:

    “The comments by several contributors to this blog justifying the reluctance on the part of some European and American institutions to return artifacts to countries such as Egypt because of the vandalism that occurred in the wake of the recent unrest there reflects no small amount of cultural bigotry. ”

    Could not have put this better. Westerners have this disgusting bias that artifacts are safer in their hands, when looting and theft from even the most prestigious museums HAS and will continue to happen. How sad that in this day and age it is still thought that areas occupied by people of non-European decent must be irresponsible and untrustworthy.

  9. Ben, a real Muslim should not steal and should care for his/her historical treasures. If tourists visiting the country respect this history, not being using the poor people and the money they pay for their visit would go to those people not the profiteers, then they should be respected.

    Lana, remember back in August, the famous Van Goghs’ painting; ‘Poppy Flowers’ was stolen and still not recovered:
    So far, fifteen Egyptian officials, including the director of the museum and the head of the fine arts department at the Ministry of Culture are accused of this robbery. It’s well known in Egypt how police and secret security agents are totally involved in most robberies.

    spectacular, a revolt is not a call to destroy anything, this is the human history, it’s a call to change and to resist against suppression.

  10. This criminal behaviour of looters should be severely punished.

    It is a pity the West lets this happen without intervening immediately with full military force to safeguard this world heritage.

    Troops should be sent into Egypt in full force, as soon as possible, looters should be indiscriminately shot or crucified.

    No remorse for those who damage Egyptian, Greek and Roman artefacts.

    True, the people of Egypt have the right to protest and overthrow the government, but through these actions they, or at least part of them show they do not have any understanding of, nor any respect for their heritage and their task to safeguard these artefacts and their history.

    Therefore Military action is needed. Fast and hard.

    It is a pity the Roman empire does not exist anymore, for they would have sent enough legions to restore order, without any complaints, because there would be no complainers left.


  11. I.S.–Oh yeah, I wasn’t saying it’s impossible to hide/sell artifacts on the black market. I’m just wondering whether that was the intent of the looters (since they were also breaking so many of the objects which would be more valuable intact), or whether they were after gilded bits, etc.
    So far I’ve only seen Wafaa el-Saddik’s comments on the robbery. I’d love a link to information on accusations.

  12. Reports from news and picture above is very touching, I can only say if damaged by looting it would be a loss to all mankind, then we care about these things.

  13. whereas I have not always agreed with some of the decisions dr. Zahi Hawass has made, I respect him and everything he has done to protect the history of his country. I do not believe he staged or allowed to be staged what happened in the Cairo museum. It would go against his love of ancient Egypt and his life’s work.

    The damage done to the museum is horrific, and you can see it in Hawass’ expression the anger, hate and pain that he’s feeling from these events. What has happened during these riots to the innocent bystanders of history is unforgivable.
    While killing those responsible won’t undo their acts it will give a sense of justice to it. Hopefully some of the damage can be restored though we have lost a great deal of Egypt’s history.

  14. I was at the Egyptian Museum on New Year’s Eve, and as an Egyptian Archaeology student, it’s deeply disappointing to hear about the break-ins and destruction at the Museum. However, I am greatly inclined to believe Wafaa el-Saddiq about the motives behind the looters, and their identities. The guards and police at the Museum, as with other sites up and down Egypt, are paid pathetic salaries that barely support them and their families. Because of this, unfortunately some of them become more or less indifferent to the monuments and treasures that they are employed to ward and protect. It wouldn’t at all surprise me if the reports of the damage being done by looters is being perpetrated by the police and guards.

    However, it must never be said that the Egyptians in general do not care about their antiquities and their history. They do. They really do. I have Egyptian Egyptologist friends who, alongside their friends and family, are desperately proud of their cultural heritage, as I think was demonstrated clearly by the attempts of the protestors and the army to protect the Museum from looters. They will have been watching these protests carefully with an eye to the future of Egyptology in Egypt.

    Remember, Zahi Hawass owes much to the Mubarak regime: at least in part, he got where he is today by favour from the regime, and the other year he was appointed (I think) Junior Vice-Minister of Culture, essentially putting him in his job for life. In some respects, he has done a good job of selling Egypt as a brand to the wider world, but this is what many Egyptologists also regard as a problem. Because of his attitude towards the archaeology and other Egyptologists, and actually quite astounding ignorance of Pharaonic history, he is deeply unpopular in the professional world, with both foreign Egyptologists, and Egyptian archaeologists who resent what they view as his stifling egomania. Everyone I know, in Egypt, in London, and through friends in Paris, agrees that he is only interested if it’s going to generate publicity and enable him to sell the brands of Egypt and Zahi Hawass. Several quite eminent archaeologists have also had their discoveries usurped by him and declared as his own discoveries, often with incorrect information! According to an Egyptian Egyptologist friend of mine, at least one well-respected archaeologist has given up trying to work in Egypt as long as he is in charge, as a sort of conscientious objector. How does he get away with it? Because Mubarak is surrounded by yes-men who tell him that Zahi Hawass is the most amazing archaeologist ever, according to my Egyptian friends.

    Along with my friends in Egypt, I organised a study tour to Egypt for 16 of my fellow undergraduate students, and we went after Christmas. I think a real mark of how Egyptology is regarded by the Mubarak regime is the state in which we found the Museum on New Year’s Eve: dirty, disorganised, objects either not labelled, poorly labelled, or incorrectly labelled (!), with some objects kept behind others in a very warehouse-like fashion. Those rickety glass cases would have been only too easy to smash up. And that new gift shop! I have it on good information that the proceeds from that gift shop went right into the pockets of the people who paid for it, and not one penny of it to the Museum itself. I can’t feel sorry for the fact that it was smashed up and looted, personally, especially after seeing my Egyptian friend who organised the tour feeling so embarrassed that his country’s foremost museum was in such a state.

    Bluntly, Hawass has a lot to lose and a pretty big stake in the Mubarak regime. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he borrowed a trick or two from his mate Hosni and got the police to smash a few things up and desecrate a couple of mummies, and pinned it on the protestors before coming out weeping floods of crocodile tears to try and save his ass.

  15. I am an Egyptologist who has known Dr. Zahi for a very long time. I will not sign my name because you will think I’m trying to curry future favors with him.
    One can certainly list his faults and character flaws and he would probably be the first to admit them himself. Yes, he has a healthy ego. And yes he is good at self promotion. BUT DO NOT DOUBT THAT HE LOVES EGYPT AND ITS ANTIQUITIES. He has given his life to them and has done quite a lot to improve the care and management of sites, museums and antiquities storage. Whoever even dares to suggest that he might have some role in what happened to the Cairo Museum – this is a slander beyond description and you should be ashamed of yourself. What have you done in your life to help preserve Egypt’s heritage?
    And while we’re talking about destruction – there will be an exhibition in Berlin about antiquities destroyed or damaged in WWII. To think that objects are safer in the west than in Egypt – really very arrogant – how much of our own heritage have we destroyed in the last 60 years?

  16. I find myself very grateful for your blog here, Margaret.

    I think the whole story of what is currently happening in Egypt is going to take a long time to fully understand, but having your assessment of the damage in the museum is invaluable. Obviously, one values human life over all things, but there is a desecration to all civilization — and that is civilized — in the destruction of Egypt’s wonders.

    Thank you for helping us bear witness, for all of us trying to understand the magnitude of these events.

  17. In the video, there also seems to be the topper for an alabaster/calcite canopic jar (don’t know how to upload a screenshot here).

    It doesn’t have the nemes headdress with uraeus, so it’s not one of Tutankhamun’s.

    Likely guess would have to be Yuya or Thuya, though I can’t get a good enough look to confirm that.

    Don’t know if it was displayed separately from the body of the jar or not…

  18. I can only offer my sincere regrets about the damage to these rare artifacts at the museum. What do the purpetrators think? This thoughtless act will not serve to quiet the political situation in Egypt; it is a crime against all of us who respect the accomplishments of the ancients.

    Michael C.

  19. Is there footage of the looters doing this?

    Were any looters captured or shot?

    I’ve visited this museum more than once and quite recently (last year) I’m surprised anyone was able to get so far inside and do so much damage without being apprehended.

    There are armed police everywhere in Cairo.

  20. Many horrible crimes have been committed throughout history, and many crimes are being committed at this time in the country of the Nile, now known as مصر Misr.

    I agree that the regime of Hosni Mubarak must end. I agree that the Egyptian people should have a better quality of life. But I totally disagree on the horrible acts of vandalism happening now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and all over the country.

    It breaks my heart to see these ancient objects thrown and broken on the floor of the museum. Unfortunately, the perpetrators of these acts have not realized that they are committing the greatest crime that can be made to any society, and worst of all, to Egyptians themselves. The vandals who did this abomination denied the opportunity to this, and future generations, to know the past of his own country.

    Maybe some extremists think that damaging ancient artifacts is a symbol of “liberation” but they not realize that if you don’t know about the past, you are doomed to repeat it.

    I think things will change, and not in good ways, after this last “Friday of Anger” -28 January 2011 – Day of infamy and loss for all the world.

    Gerardo P. Taber
    Curator of the Egyptian Room in the Museo Nacional de las Culturas México.

  21. This is such a sad time and a sad situaiton. And as passionate as I am about Egypt and Egyptology, I think the greater tregedy is obviously the loss of life. Whatever faith (and/or reason) that may inform your higher nature, I think we need to hope for peace for the Egyptian people ASAP. Artifacts and heritage sites will never be truly safe so long as there is social unrest of this magnitude.

    As for attempting to assign blame in the middle of the chaos, my opinion is that at this point that is unproductive and needlessly inflamatory. To say that I am no fan of Zahi Hawass is to put it lightly. I have respect for the good he has done but do not think the exonorates him for the bad, which goes beyond mere egotism and showmanship. But this is not a fair time and place for that fight. This also is just my opinion, but I think that he is doing everything within his power to protect the antiquities which are his life and passion.

    Please keep the people of Egypt and the people working in the field there in your thoughts. These are terrible things that are heppening, but Egyptology will survive and recover. Some of the people who have suffreed violence will not.

  22. Can anyone confirm if two of the golden Tutankhamun statues are still on tour with the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs tour? Page 180 of the guide written by Hawass and published by National Geographic has their picture and page 181 their written descriptions; as the statues came in pairs, at least one half of them may be safe. Not sure where the tour is now…the website intimates they are on their way to Science Museum of Minnesota for Feb opening?

    Obviously any loss is a tragedy and all precautions must be taken, but I would feel a little better if we knew two of these statues remained whole. And my thoughts do go to Egypt and her people at this time.

  23. hopefully the perpetrators receive the same fate due anyone who would endanger the health of the land the people the nation by destroying the dead’s anchors in this world.
    a large hole should be dug for them in the sand in some remote location, where they may be discovered in three or four thousand years, and, recognizable for what they were now, have their glass cases labelled properly when they are placed in a future museum — ‘unidentified tomb robber(s)’.
    may ma’at be restored promptly, guided by horus’ all-seeing eye. deliver them to osiris for the weighing of their hearts! ammit the devourer is eager to dispose of them…

  24. It is truly sad to hear and see the looting that has occurred in the Museum. I hope that all the people associated with the museum are safe and allowed to do their jobs. The Egyptian people deserve a safe and decent life without a dictator (“the last Pharoah). Social unrest created by 30 years of repression obviously has repercussions – and unfortunately it comes down to the perceived worth of material culture. Some of the most exquisite remains from an Eqypt of the past have been taken for personal gain. Those actions have nothing to do with the political plight of the Egyptian people and I hope that their will can be heard and some effective form of democracy for them will come out of all of this. I cannot believe that Egyptians are not proud of their cultural heritage, they most certainly are and I believe that they will strive to protect that heritage.

  25. Words cannot express what I feel in the face of such mindless destruction.
    Where are these vandals who, in this time of stress for all Egyptians, wilfully commit such crimes against the legacy of their incomporable past history?

  26. You can not throu this blame this on the anti-regime demonstrators.

    There are looters everywhere in the world that do not respect ancient objects!!

    Have in mind that these looters came in from the roof fell down and broke some of these objects! So even those stupid looters may have not planned to break them. but they are stupid. What do you expect.

    So don’t make this destruction as a blame on the anti-Dictator regime demonstrators.

  27. I’m from the US but I have taken my 8 year old son to visit the museum last year because of the imortant history it contains. I couldn’t drag him away from the displays of the boat and the army. He loved them. It made me weep instatly to see these photos. Please protect these treasures!

  28. I like so many of you am truly saddend by the destruction I’ve just seen. This is part of Egypt’s heritage. Many things dating back as far if not farther than 4000 years!..It was very good to see the Egyptian’s stand in unity and fight for their place in history. I pray for Egypt. I pray that nothing else gets broken, or stolen.

  29. It is sad to see the international cultural heritage being destroyed or theft. Iraq , Egypt, Iran belong to the most ancient civilizations. No one has the right to destroy or to thief their treasures. I hope that Egyptian riots will have the common sense to respect their history.

  30. Thanks for putting up that post Margaret (about the canes).

    I noticed that your images are definitely circulating on the web, have you thought of putting your “seal” on them (just so you get the credit for the identifications)?

    By the way, AEO posted a map for Egypt and looted locations in the country [no new news in it but good for a visual for those who might be unfamiliar with the area]:

  31. This is tragic. Such a sad thing to happen. Why weren’t there guards to protect these treasures?

  32. Well, at least Mesehti’s boat was documented by me for my PhD, Egyptian Watercraft Models from the Predynastic to Third Intermediate Periods, which is being published by BAR this year. The biggest tragedy about Mesehti’s boat is that it is the only one in existence with a cabin like this one – and now it’s smashed to bits. I was watching Al Jazeera and when the boat appeared, I burst into tears. I told my husband just last week, once again, that Mesehti’s boat is my favorite of them all – and I’ve seen them all. Criminal.

    I put together a before and after look – I took the photo in Cairo in 1998 but edited out the background – Here is how it will appear in the book, but b and w, although I’ll probably put a color photo of the boat on the cover now instead of the one from UPenn I was going to use:

  33. Words cannot describe how I feel about this series of ongoing tragedies. I feel nothing but outrage and revulsion. We can only hope that no further damage is done.

    Thank you for your work on the updates.

    Best regards,


  34. Ann, so sorry to read your message. This is heartbreaking to many of us, but anyone who has studied for a Ph.D. must be able to feel your particular pain. I am following the news just praying that the museum itself will survive the night. If it does, I sure hope that someone will start at least making detailed digital 3d scans of all the artifacts to help the restoration (or reverse engineering) if something like this ever happens again.

  35. This is a sad state of affairs for art and artifacts right now. Your updates are much appreciated. I just found your blog unfortunately, but I have enjoyed reading the evident passion in your posts.
    Your London map is also excellent– a great tool I will be referencing while visiting London very soon.
    If you don’t mind, I’m spreading the word over at my tumblr blog with a link to your site.

  36. This is indeed a mockery to the legacy of Egypt, those robbers didn’t know what they were doing, very sad!

  37. The latest photo from the Hawass blog seems to show that the vitrine upon which the fan is lying, is intact. I think this is the case you were worried had contained sticks and canes?

  38. Hi Kate, if you look at the photo (, on the far side of the case (the side, not the top), you can see where it was smashed. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there was anything in the case at the time (in fact I wonder if the photos inside it are to indicate that the objects are currently in the travelling exhibition?), but there *are* a couple of ancient sticks/canes lying on top of the case.

    You can see the breakage more clearly in this photo:

  39. Luckily Egyptian museums outside the country are safe; this is a good argument for sharing cultural heritage with the world instead of hoarding everything for political purposes

  40. Hans – Thank you for your kind words. Seriously, I was just gobsmacked and tear-streaked when I saw Mesehti’s boat – and his soldiers, too – and of course all the other damage to the poor mummy and Tutankhamun’s one-of-a-kind artifacts. It is sincerely my favorite boat due to it’s heft, through-going deck beams, and it’s strong and substantial reinforced stern structure – it is a true Egyptian National Treasure, and that agents of the government are the likely culprits in damaging it makes my blood boil.

    In World War II at least 5 Egyptian Watercraft Models were destroyed by bombs in Germany and England – and I have photos of 4 and a drawing of the other, so they “sort of” live on. Mesehti’s boat will be restored, but it will never be the same.

  41. Ann, thank you very much for your comments. I can imagine how you felt seeing the Meseti boat… I am also studying Middle Kingdom models for my doctoral thesis, not Meseti’s in particular, but others at the Cairo Museum. It broke my heart to see them smashed because they are truly exceptional- there aren’t any others quite like them and they’re so spectacularly detailed. It makes me especially sad to think they were probably targeted because of their uniqueness and sheer scale. I’m really looking forward to reading your thesis though- when is it due to come out this year?

  42. Hi Margaret – Thanks for the great blog. I read in you bio that Dr. Parkinson is one of your supervisors – he was kind enough to give me permission to use his father’s drawings of Tut’s boats in my book, and he’s been very helpful to me over the years. I’ve never met him personally, even when I was in London at UCL, but he’s been great through e-mail.

    I’m near the end of the image editing process – I have about 1,050 imaged and every single one needed to be re-edited (!!!!) to get to the proper ppi. Ugh! But, they look really good and I literally have 10 left. I have to re-insert the images into my already-edited text and then I’ll submit it to BAR. They usually take 3-4 months to get a title fully prepared for publication, so they’ll get on it as soon as I can get everything done. The non-profit my husband and I run has 2 grants open and we have work with that, so I can’t work on the book full-time.

    What models are you looking at? I’m only maritime, but if you need any help with anything watercraft-related, I’d be glad to help. I have images of all my watercraft (586, except one from an auction catalog that didn’t have an image but a distinctive description that doesn’t fit my others from Beni Hasan) and the 167 forgeries I’ve documented, if you need anything. I’ve created a new classification system based on nautical construction attributes to replace Reisner’s typology. I have 2 categories – papyrus rafts and wooden boat representations – and within those, 36 classifications. Have you seen the PhD of Karin Kroenke out of Berkeley? She finished up in Autumn 2010 and sent me a copy on CD (she used my PhD a bit in her work) – it’s titled: “The Provincial Cemeteries of Naga ed-Deir: A Comprehensive Study of Tomb Models Dating from the Late Old Kingdom to the Late Middle Kingdom.” She studied Reisner’s stuff at the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum extensively, as well as the Boston-Harvard Expedition. So, if you need anything, just ask! Thanks again for the great blog – invaluable at a time like this.

  43. Sorry for the typos above – my cats are sitting on me and they get in the way sometimes and I miss a couple of things. Oops!

  44. Margaret,

    We do now have pictures of the statues. It looks as though there are five in total. Some aren’t shown clearly and the photo isn’t high resolution, but the consensus of commerntators on my blog is that they appear to be fakes. Obviously, in due course I am sure an expert will inspect them first hand, but less worried tonight than I was last night.

  45. You are right about the case. The image on Ahram show it clearly. See the gallery.

    Image 5 in the gallery is one I have not seen before. It shows no damage and may reassure a few more people that their favourite objects are safe.

  46. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before (probably due to the shock of seeing photos of the damaged objects), but if you take a look at photos of the rooms where the vandalism took place, the choice of damage looks rather selective – and it seems unlikely that the perpetrators, who supposedly knew nothing about Egyptian relics, somehow found their way straight to the Tutankhamen collection. Also, the Cairo Museum has numerous rickety old glass cases that could have easily been smashed or knocked over on the way to the Tut exhibit and back – yet they were untouched. Finally, it is interesting that the vandals chose to damage relatively minor artifacts, when they could have easily gone for the much more magnificent gold objects nearby.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any updates on this story since about five days ago. I hope someone will eventually get to the bottom of it!

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