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More Than 1,000 Ancient Egyptian Artifacts Stolen from Museum

More Than 1,000 Ancient Egyptian Artifacts Stolen from Museum

In the midst of the recent violence in Egypt, the Mallawi National Museum has been ransacked by looters. The museum is located about 190 miles south of Cairo, and contained many artifacts that hadn’t yet been studied by researchers.

The stolen artifacts included animal mummies, votive statues, religious offerings, wooden coffins, stone jewelry, funerary masks, amulets, statues, and even canopic jars — originally designed to hold the organs of a mummified body.

Looters struck the building while supporters of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi were holding a protest outside. The museum’s collection of 1,089 artifacts was reduced by 1,050 items in a mere matter of hours. Just to add insult to injury, after the looters left, local gangs entered the building to smash and burn what little was left. Some of the destroyed objects were nearly 5,000 years old. National Geographic has released some eerie photos of the aftermath, showing smashed display cases and a handful of artifacts that were too large to carry off.

So far, a handful of the Mallawi artifacts have been recovered, including a collection of gold coins, some Greco-Roman reliefs, papyrus texts and statues of various Egyptian gods. At 125 items, it’s only a tenth of what was stolen, but it’s a start. The returned items are being housed with what’s left of the collection in a secure storehouse to protect against further looting.

In an effort to recover the rest of the loot, Egyptologists are turning to social media to publicize the missing items. A Facebook group called Egypt’s Heritage Task Force is posting photos of the museum’s collection to help dealers and collectors recognize the stolen goods. Egyptian officials have also catalogued the missing items and posted a list to UNESCO’s website — which will hopefully prevent them from being traded in the international market.

Sadly, this disrespect for Egypt’s museums is nothing new. Similar attacks occurred during the 2011 revolution, when more than 50 artifacts were stolen from the world-famous Egyptian Museum. Protestors smashed the heads of two mummies and damaged 10 smaller artifacts. Many of the stolen items have never been recovered. Since then, reports of looting have surfaced at archeological sites across the country.

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Photo credit: Liz Lawley

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189 comments

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1:54PM PDT on Sep 17, 2013

I would not be surprised if there was a connection between the protesters outside and the looters. Islam fundamentalists have made it a priority to destroy archeological treasures from other cultures. Just remember when the Talibans dynamited the Buddhas in Afghanistan, in spite of these being in the UNESCO registry. So why not do it in Egypt.

5:47AM PDT on Sep 17, 2013

sad

4:29AM PDT on Sep 16, 2013

Philistines

11:59AM PDT on Sep 15, 2013

Tragic. I hope the rest of the collection is found as well.

1:52PM PDT on Sep 7, 2013

Bad news.

2:55AM PDT on Sep 5, 2013

Sad, once it's gone, it's gone.

8:50PM PDT on Sep 3, 2013

i actually teared up. Egypt's history is so important, so precious :/

1:02AM PDT on Sep 3, 2013

this is sad...

10:27AM PDT on Sep 2, 2013

The locals have been stealing the stuff for centuries too.

That is why most governments do not want to give some of the items back....they would just vanish!!!

6:03AM PDT on Aug 31, 2013

Wow.

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