By Yomna El Saeed
Under the title Damaged and Restored, the Egyptian museum in Cairo is hosting an exhibition of antiquities that were lost and damaged, and subsequently restored, during the 25 January Revolution.
The exhibition is staged in hall 44 of the museum and was opened by the minister of antiquities Dr Mohamed Ibrahim, the head of the museums sector, Mr Ahmed Sharaf, the general manager of the Egyptian museum, Mr Sayed Aamer and the general manager of the conservation department of the Egyptian museum, Dr Hoda Abdel Hameed. In total 29 artefacts are on display, 11 of which were looted and recovered and 18 which were damaged but not stolen from the museum during the revolution.
Among the displayed artefacts are two statues of King Tutankhamen made of cedar wood and covered with gold, a statue of King Akhenaton, Ushabtis statues which belonged to the Nubian kings, a mummy of a child and a small plychrome glass vase.
Eid Rizk Mertah from the conservation department of the Egyptian museum explained what happened to the artefacts on display. “Some looters found that after they stole the archeological pieces they could not sell them, so they damaged them, put them in bags and threw them in the garden, in the garbage bin and on the roof of the museum. This is where the employees of the museum found them. The pieces were very badly damaged.”
On 28 January 2011 the police disappeared from the streets, which created a security vacuum. Egypt’s largest museum that is filled with 120,000 priceless ancient artefacts, among which the famous golden burial mask of Tutankhamen and the mummy of Ramses II, was particularly vulnerable due to its location on the fringe of Tahrir Square, the heart of the uprising. Looters took advantage of the lack of protection and broke into the gift shop, gutting it of merchandise. Later on the same day they entered the museum itself through the roof and via the emergency ladder. A total of 54 pieces was stolen, of which 25 were found and 29 are still lost.
The pieces that have thus far been recovered were found on the museum grounds by employees of the museum. “Neither the police nor the military found any of the artefacts that are still missing,” Mertah explained. “However, all of the stolen pieces are registered with Interpol, which means it is impossible for any of them to be displayed in any museum around the globe.”
The recovery of the antiquities on display in the exhibition, Mertah said, was done gradually. “The restoration process started with the earliest findings on 2 February 2011 and continued as we found more of the missing pieces,” he said. “The team of the conservation department of the museum carried out the restoration process. No external aid was needed.”
The exhibition opened at the end of September and is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.