UPDATE 17th March 12pm: 12 of the objects missing from the Egyptian Museum recovered?; 27 objects missing from the Tell El-Faraein storehouse; Ahram Online says no new Minister of Antiquities has been chosen; a BBC eyewitness report on looting in Abydos
UPDATE 30th March 10:40am: Dr. Hawass reappointed as Minister of Antiquities; 5 more objects recovered; more news of illegal building at Dashur & Abusir, and UNESCO’s visit
A total of 54 objects make up the list of objects missing from the museum in Cairo, which can be downloaded from the SCA website in PDF format. Sadly the objects include, in addition to those already announced, a number of Amarna statuettes, a fan and trumpet of Tutankhamun’s, sixteen Late Period bronze statuettes, and eight pieces of jewellery.
Two trumpets were discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb, one of silver, and one of gilded bronze. In an experiment to attempt playing them, the fragile silver trumpet was shattered but later restored. The bronze trumpet survived, but it is now missing from the Egyptian Museum. On youTube, you can listen to the remarkable BBC recording of the sounding of trumpets, and hear T.G.H. James read an account of the story behind the recording.
In other news, Dr. Zahi Hawass has posted his in absentia address to the UNESCO convention against illicit trafficking of cultural property. The event celebrated the anniversary of UNESCO’s ‘Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Currently ratified by 120 States, it marked the first international recognition of the fact that cultural goods are not goods like any others’. The event was intended ‘to review the history of the Convention, appraise its achievements, its strong points and its weaknesses’. Dr. Hawass was due to speak at the event, but did not attend, instead sending his remarks:
In these dark days, when some of our most important sites are suffering from the depredations of the looters and opportunists who are taking advantage of the current power vacuum, we call upon the international community for help. The antiquities department has issued lists of antiquities known to be missing from the Egyptian Museum and from storage magazines that have been robbed; we call upon you to help us circulate these lists and watch out for these pieces should they appear on the black market. As we struggle to restore order to our sites, we call upon you for ideas and support, which we will welcome gladly.
Le Parisien reported on the convention and notes comments from Gihane Zaki, Director General of the Nubia Fund at the SCA, on protecting the sites, and states that the UN will be sending a fact-finding mission to Egypt (see here for an English Google translation of the article):
“Nous avons besoin d’une intervention d’urgence pour protÃ©ger le patrimoine, un peu comme cela s’Ã©tait fait dans les annÃ©es 1960 au moment de la construction du barrage” d’Assouan, a estimÃ© l’archÃ©ologue Ã©gyptienne Gihane Zaki, directrice gÃ©nÃ©rale du Fonds nubien auprÃ¨s du ministÃ¨re Ã©gyptien de la Culture. L’action de l’Unesco et la mobilisation internationale avaient Ã l’Ã©poque permis de “sauver ces trÃ©sors”, a-t-elle notÃ©. A ses yeux, “il faut aussi sensibiliser les gens, notamment les gardiens des sites, qui peuvent ne pas Ãªtre assez formÃ©s ou mÃªme parfois contribuer aux vols”.
“RÃ©cemment, un chauffeur de taxi m’a dit que maintenant qu’il n’y avait plus d’argent, l’imam de la mosquÃ©e voisine leur avait affirmÃ© que c’Ã©tait permis de vendre des antiquitÃ©s si on en trouvait”, a racontÃ© Mme Zaki. L’archÃ©ologue est trÃ¨s inquiÃ¨te car dans certaines rÃ©gions, “les gens habitent sur des antiquitÃ©s. Ils fouillent de pÃ¨re en fils”. Certains peuvent “profiter de cette pÃ©riode chaotique et d’insÃ©curitÃ© pour sortir le maximum d’objets”, a-t-elle ajoutÃ©.
Plusieurs sites importants ont Ã©tÃ© pillÃ©s. Le 5 mars, un groupe armÃ© de quarante personnes s’en est pris Ã un site du nord de l’Egypte, blessant une partie des membres du personnel, a indiquÃ© Francesco Bandarin, sous-directeur gÃ©nÃ©ral pour la culture Ã l’Unesco.
L’agence de l’ONU va envoyer une mission spÃ©ciale en Egypte en fin de semaine pour faire le point et ramener des informations, a-t-il indiquÃ©.
The new Minister of Antiquities is reported to be Dr. Alaa Shaheen, the Dean of the Faculty of Archaeology at Cairo University. He has made a statement saying that protecting museums and addressing the problems of recent archaeology graduates will be his priorities. His personal website can be visited here.
Kate Phizackerley at News from the Valley of the Kings has reported on a number of recent incidents of alleged looting and thwarted attempts.
Luxor Times is reporting that 12 of the objects stolen from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo have been recovered after the thieves were caught by police and armed forces trying to sell the items.
The objects are 7 statues, 5 bronze statues and 1 limestone statue beside 5 necklaces, one is golden and the others are made of faience and coloured glass.
Ahram Online reports that the Ministry of Antiquities has released the results of an inventory carried out at the Tell El-Faraein storehouse in Kafrul Sheikh in the Delta and 27 objects are known to be missing:
He explained that the missing objects included 20 bronze coins from the Roman and Islamic eras, a limestone relief engraved with a Greco text, a statue inscribed with a hieroglyphic text and four clay pots.
The storehouse at Tel El-Faraein was looted last week, when an armed gang tied up its guards and succeeded in entering the storehouses. Some of the ministry guards escaped, and caught four gang members red-handed. A list has been sent to the prosecutor for investigation.
The article also states ‘The office of minister of state for antiquities affairs is still vacant as no one has been appointed to succeed Hawass’, suggesting that reports of Dr. Alaa Shaheen accepting the post may be incorrect.
Today on the programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent‘ on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service, Christine Finn reports from Abydos on witnessing the damage done by the extensive illicit digging ongoing there and interviews a number of locals. It will be live on the World Service and online at 16:32 GMT this afternoon and again on Radio 4 on Saturday at 11:30 GMT. It is not available online yet, but should soon be uploaded to BBC iPlayer here.
Also, further information on the UNESCO missions to Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya can be found here.
UPDATE 30th March 10:40am:
According to the Egyptian cabinet on Twitter, Dr. Zahi Hawass has been reappointed Minister of Antiquities by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.
Ahram Online reports that a further five objects have been recovered of those missing from the Cairo Museum. The objects found are the bronze seated statue of Bastet (CG 38998), the bronze seated Osiris (JE 17914), the bronze statue of Neith (JE 30324), the bronze sceptre of Ankhusiri (JE 91488), and one of the two missing bronze Apis bulls, sadly damaged (most likely TR 126.96.36.199). Dr. Zahi Hawass tells about how they were reportedly found after attempts to sell the objects in the famous market in Cairo, Khan el-Khalili:
These five pieces were found yesterday with three of the criminals who broke into the museum. They took the five objects to Khan el-Khalili in order to sell them. A man at the bazaar told the criminals that he would pay 1500LE for the pieces. The looters said that the pieces were from the museum and worth much more than that price. After this, the man informed the police who apprehended the criminals. The five objects are bronze pieces dating to the Late Period: a scepter, a statue of an Apis Bull, a seated statue of Bastet, a statue of Neith, and a statue of Osiris. There are 37 objects still missing from the museum, but I am confident that they will be found soon.
Dr. Hawass also has news about further unauthorized building on ancient sites at Dashur and Abusir, with Ahram Online reporting that the UNESCO delegation were ‘upset’ by what they had seen. Apparently there reports state that there have been ‘500 encroachments during the past two months’.