Sunday, 6th of Febr., 2011
In the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), we all realize with great appreciation the concerns of the entire Egyptological and archaeological communities around the world on the safety of Egypt’s archaeological heritage. We also understand that these concerns are growing higher and higher with the frightening news about “ransacking”, “looting”, “plundering”, “vandalizing”…etc. of Egypt’s museums, magazines and archaeological sites. These reports on the situation of Egypt’s archaeological heritage are not entirely accurate. There were indeed incidents of vandalism, but have not reached the level of looting. We would like to assure everybody that archaeological sites and museums in Egypt are in the capable hands of the Egyptian Army, the inspectors of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and most importantly the villagers living in the vicinity of these archaeological sites. Villagers have formed human shields around the sites and are assisting the army and the inspectors in guarding the magazines and sites.
The story of the vandalism of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo is very complex with multiple sides to it. The people who congregated in the garden of the museum on Friday, January 28 had different intensions. Some people were protecting the museum; others entered the garden with the intension to break into the museum. A third group was just hanging out as if they were in a picnic!
The newly opened museum gift-shop was vandalized and ransacked. Looters thought all along that the gift-shop is the Egyptian Museum and that the jewelry gifts and replicas are antiquities. The majority of the looted jewelry was returned by the Egyptian Army personnel, who rushed into the museum once the curfew was forced. They arrested a number of looters and used the help of volunteers to form a human shield around the museum. The funny part of the story is that only the books of the gift-shop remained untouched. Looters are never interested in books, I guess. However, ca. 6 people broke into the museum through the windows in the museum ceiling using ropes. One of those people fell down on a showcase, while going down using the rope. He got injured and could not escape, and was arrested inside the museum. The army also arrested ca. 10 more people who tried relentlessly to scale the western museum surrounding wall.
The preliminary damage assessment of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo was conducted on Saturday, January 29, by a committee of Egyptologists, army personnel and policemen. This committee included Dr. Tarek El-Awady, the General Director of the Museum, Mr. Ibraheim Abd El-Mageid, a Senior Curator at the museum and myself. We found out that only 13 (thirteen) showcases were smashed and objects were taken out. Fortunately, the thieves were after “treasures”. In their understanding, “treasures” are gold objects. Therefore, they left all the objects of the smashed showcases lying on the floors of the galleries. Some of these objects are found broken, while others are still intact. A full account of the vandalism of Egypt’s archaeological sites and museums could be found on Dr. Zahi Hawass’s website, www.zahihawass.com, and on that of the SCA (www.sca-egypt.org).
SCA Announcement by Ramadan B. Hussein
Sunday, 6th of Febr., 2011