We, researches, scholars and people concerned to the Historical and Archaeological Patrimony of Egypt are asking UNESCO, ONU, the leaders of the Arab Countries as well the directions of the international organisms to help the Egyptian citizens of good faith to stop the looting of the Museums and archaeological sites in Egypt. Please see how is awful the situation there in the UPDATE , as below.
UPDATE about the looting of the Cultural heritage of Egypt
The list below presents an update about the damage and looting of the Archaeological Sites and Museums in Egypt.
It was based on the many interviews, reports and other dependable sources available on the internet and also callings here and there. We thank Prof. K. Phizackerley for the many data. Possibly, the data are not free of mistakes, but we are glad if corrections are sending to us.
We have two different categories of reports: that one of the Government and the other of witnesses of researches and journalists. After the International Campaign of the Government proposing the repatriation of the archaeological items, we understand that they have interest to state that the sites and museums are completely safe and untouched. Our concern is related to the integrity of Patrimony.
Although, the worst report is that one witness saying that in Saqqarah and Abusir areas, there are gangs of some 200 people working together and digging extensively in many areas.
As far we were able to search, the real situation is as below:
2. Damage and Looting
Cairo : National Museum of Antiquities ( Cairo Museum)
According to the reports, ten people invaded the Cairo Museum last 28th Jan from the roof. They stolen all the jewelry items in the Gift shop and looked for precious items in the first floor. They broke 13 showcases and stole some items. The worst was the damage of two mummies and apparently one was of Thuya, the Mother-in-Law of King Amenhotep III. The next information seemed to suggest that they were in a case that an intruder had fallen on top of and smashed accidentally, perhaps Late Period non-royal mummies.
Two statues of Tutankhamun were completely damaged but the remains were left inside the Museum and they can be repaired later.
Later, on 2nd Feb we had the news that the Museum was on fire. Hours later Reuters showed that some cars beside the Museum burn, but the Museum was ok. It is now closed and watched by the Army.
Cairo: Coptic Museum
Looters attacked the museum. It is known that the local Coptic Egyptians tried to protect it. A report from Hany N. Takla , suggests that with the minor exception of a couch and chandelier the museum and its contents are safe as at 1st February
Museum of Islamic Art ( Cairo)
Ok and safe.
Museum of Memphis
The Museum in Memphis is a small institution roughly 24 km south of Cairo dominated by a colossal limestone statue of Rameses II . The Museum and his magazines were robbed on Saturday morning completely. The guards tried to avoid the looting but in vain. The former Director of the Egyptian Museum, Wafaa Al-Saddik stated that the destruction was complete.
Storage areas (Taftish) in Saqqarah and Abusir
The SCA built 36 storage areas along the country in order to keep antiquities near the areas where they were found. Many Taftish were looted. The number was not yet confirmed .
The magazines and stores of Abusir were opened and stolen. A source in Cairo 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.
At both Abusir and Saqqara many sealed tombs have been entered by thieves, destroying many of the tombs interiors and taking artifacts. Some of these tombs at Saqqara act as storerooms for many of the artifacts excavated from the tombs of the Old Kingdom officials. The storerooms at Abusir contain many royal artifacts excavated from the royal burial ground, which contains the majority of the pyramids of the V Dynasty kings. Large gangs of men have been reported as digging day and night at these sites. The situation at present is still unclear whether the army has now secured this region or not, although they have been informed of this activity.
An article in Science Magazine (3 February) reports that 'one archaeologist present at the cemetery of Saqqara' said that as many as 200 looters were digging for treasure in the area this past weekend before police resecured the area. The unnamed excavator also confirmed rumors that the tomb of Maia, the wet nurse of King Tutankhamun, was "completely destroyed". According to the same article another Western archaeologist said "we still don't know the extent of the damage, but things have been bad and out of control."
Both Abusir and Saqqara are reported to have suffered a lot of damage and there are many large gangs digging throughout the night and day.
“All the sealed tombs were entered last 31 Jan night. Only the Imhotep Museum and the adjacent central magazines are currently protected by the military. Large gangs are digging day and night everywhere,” said Monica Hanna, an Egyptian Egyptologist and verified by Mohammad Megahed.
Serapeum broken into and partially set on fire, lots of Ibis mummies taken. Every tomb there was broken into. The army can chase them away during the day, but the night is different.
Luxor ( East Bank)
Groups attempted to enter the Luxor Temple but part of population avoided any damage. The Museum of Luxor is completely ok.
Quite apart from demonstrating the immense courage of the local people it also reaffirms that the tourist police protecting the site were withdrawn en masse and that subsequently one of those police was one of the leader of the attempt to loot or ravage the temple.
The people, at the ecouragement of the Imams in the mosques, also protected Christian churches.
Looters tried to break into Karnak Temple over the weekend of 30th January, but were repulsed by locals, although reportedly the thugs were armed with guns. The protectors included Mr. Mansour Boraik, head of the Upper Egyptian Antiquities, and Mr. Ibrahim Soliman, head of the Karnak Temple. It has been suggested that the attack was aimed at the Karnak warehouse. No other reports of attempted looting are presently known.
Luxor Temple and the Mummification Museum are guarded by soldiers: Miss Sanaa Aly, the Director of Luxor Museum, has confirmed its safety. Apparently the Mosques have been telling their worshippers to protect the monuments.
Over the weekend of 31st January, there was one report of minor, unspecified damage in the Luxor area. There are no details at present and this has not been verified.
The swiss newspaper NZZ reports that in Luxor a digging has been attacked in which the university of Basel takes part. Source of this information is Antonio Loprieno, head of Basel university. He suspects that policemen from a nearby village are responsible.
NOTE : A very bad news is that prisons in Qena and Armant (next to Luxor) have been emptied, so the criminal are free and people fear major looting will occur in that region. Lets remember that Qena is the beginning of the route of the traffic that lead antiquities to the Red Sea !
Thebes ( West Bank)
The West Bank (where the mortuary temples and the Valley of the Kings are located) the police have abandoned the monuments so protection is being organized by local people who are taking measures to ensure that the sites are safe. Traditionally some individuals collect items around but we don’t have news about looting of the private tombs of the nobles . There are no protests on the West Bank.
There is scarce news of looting in Middle Egypt. Missions in Amarna and Antinoe have all reported that their sites are undisturbed at the start of the weekend; their subsequent safety has not been verified.
It has been suggested, however, that the site of Ehnasya (Herakleopolis Magna) has been severely looted, although again there is no verification yet.
A report tells that attempts were made over the weekend of 29th/30th January by a large group of men to rob the open air museum at Ashmunein, and also an attempt was made to open the magazine at Bahnasa. Both attempts were foiled by local security personnel. Similarly, the magazines at Amarna are currently secure. They remain under guard. The general practice being adopted is to build additional stone and concrete walls to protect magazines.
The situation of Middle Egypt now is unknown, but for several years we have news that groups of looters are digging Christian Cemeteries there and Coptic textiles are sold abroad. The route is via the Red Sea, reaching Saudi Arabia and later Turkey .
East of Qantara in the Sinai, there is a large store containing antiquities from the Port Said Museum. A large group, armed with guns and a truck, entered the store, opened the boxes in the magazine and took the precious objects. Some say that some objects were recuperated later.
The Sun also claims that 3,000 articles were taken from the magazine at Qantara; others were smashed. In that case, the return of 288 items reported by the new Minister for Antiquities
Archbishop Damiano confirmed on 1st February that the monastery of Saint Aikaterini is safe.
The Museum of Aswan is Ok. Army is said to have secured the Nubian Museum. The Aswan Museum on Elephantine was approached by looters but report says that they were turned back by locals. Streets said to be quiet with army visible but no police.
Groups attempted to enter the Royal Jewellery Museum, National Museum of Alexandria, and El Manial Museum. Although, the foresighted employees of the Royal Jewellery Museum moved all of the objects into the basement, and sealed it before leaving.
The library is safe , whether they be the staff of the Library or the representatives of the demonstrators, who are joining others in guarding the building from potential vandals and looters.
Reports still abound for major looting in the Alexandria Museum—but those reports are hard to confirm. The violence has been worse in Alexandria, and there have been few police reports there.” Later, one report stated that the Graeco-Roman Museum is safe.
The sites under archaeological operations in the Fayoum have not been mentioned so far in the reports. Since the focus of the El-Lahun Survey Project is the monumental area at El-Lahun, it was crucial for us to have a clear view of what had happened to the Fayoum.
The SCA stated that the sites are generally in poor condition, traces of illicit diggings have been observed here and there. There was a fortunately unsuccessful attempt of looting the Karanis (Kom Aushim) magazine which is now guarded and protected by inspectors of the SCA and local people. No objects have been stolen.
The Egyptian Government stated a formal recommendation as below:
“ … It is inevitable that some antiquities will make their way on to the illicit antiquities market. Many antiquities are world famous and well published making them harder to sell; however, there are many hundreds of thousands that are not that well published and even more that have not been excavated as part of an organized legitimate excavation. There are probably some unscrupulous antiquities dealers and private collectors who are rubbing their hands at the prospect of attaining new Egyptian antiquities, it is the responsibility of all decent law abiding people to be diligent. If any Egyptian antiquities are offered for sale that have a dubious provenance it is the responsibility of every museum and individual to report the sellers straight away to the proper authorities. In the USA the officials from the Department of Homeland Security, in the UK Her Majesties Customs and Excise must be extra diligent. The free ports in Switzerland as well as those in other European countries and Japan should all be working with Egyptologists and the SCA to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice and that no illicit antiquities enter their countries. These criminals must not be allowed to profit from their crimes against humanity. If you suspect that an antiquity is looted or you see any looting taking place you should contact the police, the Art Lost Register, Interpol, CultNat or the SCA, failing that you can contact Dr Marina Apaydin, Deputy Director Management, UNESCO World Heritage Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org, Monica Hanna Monica_h@aucegypt.edu, Monica.email@example.com, 00393282069816 or ECHO on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will notify the correct legal authorities on your behalf. Our friends at Looting Matters will also be monitoring this situation very closely. Although this comment from ECHO focuses on archaeological sites, artefacts and museums in Egypt, our first concerns are for the Egyptian people who have demonstrated their wish for social change. There are many heroes in Egypt, some of whom are our friends and colleagues, that are helping to protect Egypt’s heritage, for it is the world’s heritage, and the world send their thanks to all of you. May God be with the good people of Egypt; our thoughts and prayers are with you! “
Please note the following statement of Wafaa Al-Saddik, former director of the Egyptian Museum “ A security guard earns about 250 Egyptian pounds, or 35 € a month. We have about 160 security guards plus several dozen police officers who are basically conscripts in police uniforms. These policemen earn even less …” : Cf: http://hyperallergic.com/17896/egyptian-museum-looted-by-own-guards-memphis-looted/
We hope it contributes to the seriousness of the situation and we stress the necessity of an International Organism that can preserve the fragile and invaluable patrimony that belongs to the Egyptian People and Country but also belongs to all humankind.
Claudio Prado de Mello ( Prof. Ms)
Archaeologist, Historian and Egyptologist
cellular: 00 55 21 8155-5164 e 9188-4880 e 7266-4191
Office of the Archaeological Museum of Mankind: 00 55 21 3012-4908
Office of the Al-Sultaniyya Cultural Complex: 00 55 21 3358-0809