Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, February 07, 2011

Jeffrey Bartholet,who undertook the National Geographic inspection of Saqqara, has just interviewed (Sunday) the Director of the Egyptian Museum, Tarek El Awady.

The good news is that Awady says that although 70 items were removed from their cases, and dropped on the floor or worse, the latest assessment is that only 20 - 25 need repair or restoration.  Bartholet reports that Awady had a big grin on his face, so the impression is that this is a genuine and relieved reassessment of the situation.

The bad news is that Awady admits that the Museum doesn't yet know whether anything was stolen:

Awady confirmed that four men were arrested as they tried to escape the museum compound with stolen relics on the night the break-in took place. One was using a piece of clothing--perhaps a shirt--to carry several bronze and wooden statues. Another had dropped his plunder while trying to get over a wall.
Awady said it was still unclear if any looters escaped that night, and it will take more time to fully account for items in the museum to determine if anything is missing.

In his account,as you can see, four men were arrested as they tried to leave the grounds of the Egyptian Museum.  They were carrying plunder.  Awady admits that it is unknown whether any looters escaped: earlier reports had suggested nine or ten men had entered the main halls of the museum.  Awady quite rightly says that it is not yet known whether anything was stolen as an inventory has yet to be completed.  I understand that Dr Hawass toured the broken cases with reporters over the weekend, so hopefully at least the public items on display have all been accounted for by now.  Awady didn't say, but his demeanour as reported by Bartholet suggests he is fairly relaxed.  He did mention the statute of Tutankhamun in a skiff with  harpoon so that statue, which we know from TV coverage was ripped from its base, is presumably still in the possession of the Museum at least.

He also says the captured looters were carrying bronze statues, as well as wooden ones.  That is another piece of information which has not previously been released.  Presumably these bronze statues were Late Period statues since there has been no admission to any cases being broken other than Tutankhamun, one for Akhenaten and ten in the Late Period rooms.

We were reassured on 4th February when Dr Hawass, Minister of State for Antiquities, said on his blog that "As I have already stated, nothing was stolen from the museum."  Based on Awady's report, this now seems to be an expression of hope - and one we all share.  Let's hope indeed that when the Musuem completes its inventory that it is proved to be true.

(My thanks to Margaret Maitland of the Eloquent Peasant for the link.)


Anonymous said...

What!cant they just do a quick check to see if anything is missing!

Kate Phizackerley said...

As I say I *hope* they have done a check now on the opened cabinets but it is a massive museum, so if they into store rooms then it could take much longer.

Ken said...

This is the same museum that is (at least represented as) "Do you remember that one mummy that was found in 1915? Lets rummage around the basement and try to find it!" If anyone got into any manner of storage area, no one will ever know what is missing.


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