Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, February 19, 2011

Somehow I managed to miss this account of the break in, presented in a National Geographic blog of a tour in which the Museum Director, Tarek El Awady, explained the sequence of events to Jeffrey Bartholet.  It contains some genuinely unique details,  for instance concerning the case the intruder is said to have fallen upon when dropping from the skylight:

Tthe intruder apparently lost his grip and fell, crashing on a showcase holding a coffin, scepters, and sticks belonging to Mesehti, a prince of the 12th dynasty, around 2000 B.C. “Surprisingly, the coffin and the other relics with it are completely fine,” notes Awady. “They need no restoration at all.”
There is more about the damage to the boat.  Apparently the intruder was carrying an heavy metal hammer which he threw down before he descended himself:

the heavy metal hammer he had apparently tossed from the window before he descended. The hammer smashed a case with a small pharaonic boat that, according to tradition, would have accompanied Mesehti on his journey to the afterlife.

I have a problem with that as the boat doesn't give the impression of having been smashed from the top by a metal hammer which have been dropped from 30' above.  It would surely have smashed through the deck.  Also, the case is smashed at the side.  It isn't clear whether the top of the case is also smashed, but there doesn't seem to be broken glass consistent with a smashed top.  Also, as shown in the photos, the side of the boat case which is smashed is not next to the case holding the coffin etc.

The main discrepancy with earlier stories is that apparently alarms were activated, "Amid the chaos, museum officials and police knew that one or more people had entered the main building when motion sensors set off alarms."  According to this version of the break in, this should have been sufficient to prevent theft because there were 65 police on duty; however, "The head of the museum police says that his men, about 65 in all, were far outnumbered..."   Outnumbered, that is, by between one and four men who were inside the museum.  Egyptian Museum arithmetic seems to be different to that used by the rest of the world.

Dr Hawass has been criticised for his inaccurate reporting, but Bartholet effectively alleges that Awady did the same, saying:
... he came to a case holding two small statues of King Tutankhamun, one portraying him atop a black leopard, another showing him spearing fish from a boat. The thief broke the glass but tossed the statues aside. “He thought they were gold, because the statues are gilded,” says Awady. “When he found out they were not gold, but wood, he threw them on the floor.”
 That is, according to Bartholet Awady explicitly said that the statue of Tutankhamun with harpoon was thrown in the floor - even though it later appears in the list of stolen objects.

Every account I read of this break in adds to my confusion, rather than reduces it. 


Anonymous said...

Dr Zahi Hawass conducted himself like an old style Pharaoh since the museum breakins. Issuing inaccurate reports right, left and centre to all the world with little regard to accuracy. An arrogant manner and flagrant disdain for credability makes him look like a throwback to old-school dictator-style era. There's no place for the likes of his modus operandi in the 21st century. (Ozymandias, a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley would offer some imformative reading to Mr Ben Ali, Mr Mubarak and even Dr Hawass, should they find themselves with time hanging on their hands).

Kate Phizackerley said...

This account was, however, not by Dr Hawass.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of people within the SCA may be intimidated by Dr Hawass and there may be a climate of bullying. He does appear to have a vindictive and ruthless streak as witnessed by his campaign to prove the YL is not Nefertiti in order to put Dr Fletcher in her place and his appearance on chasing mummies, though he is clearly acting up somewhat does reveal certain character traits.
If the system of cronyism within the SCA exists as alleged recently then perhaps the Director is under some pressure to obscure the apalling lapses in security.
The museum where someone walked out with a £20m Van Gough, with its non working security cameras despite constant appeals by the museum director for investment in security and then subsequent crticism of this man by the SCA is a case in point and should have served as a wake up call. Having said that it is not the question of the integrity of SCA officials that concerns me but the fact that the museum takes in so much money and so little has been reinvested in security, better climate/environmental control or computerisation. i cannot believe they are still using original ledgers, these should be in a museum themselves.

james said...

Hi Kate,

I totally agree with you all the different reports about the museum break-in are extremely confusing!In your post you said that the statue of Tutankhamun harpooning a hippo was listed as damaged but then appears in the list of missing objects. There are so many contradicting reports it is easy to become confused but I was under the impression that it was the statue of Tutankhamun being carried by Mekhuti that has gone missing and that the harpooning the hippo statue was being restored along with the panther statue. Am I correct in thinking this? I am praying that all the missing pieces are found soon! Love the blog Kate!!

Kate Phizackerley said...

Sadly two Tutankhamun statues are missing. It has been said only the torso of the harpooning statue is missing so we are unsure whether the arms etc have been found. These are wooden statues 3,400 years old, or so. They are extremely fragile and were handled very roughly. Even if they are retrieved I fear the damage will be pretty catastrophic and full repair impossible; even partial repair might not be feasible. We can hope but Dr Hawass has talked of finding "fragments" of the goddess.

Charles Green said...

Perhaps a visit from a UNESCO sponsored team is called for to help The Director undertake an inventory that is unambiguous. After all, these objects are of world heritage importance.


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