Egypt’s Heritage in Danger

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Since the brutal clear-out of the two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo, grim and worrisome details of looting and theft emerge. I have already thoroughly documented destruction of diverse Christian properties. Below are details about stolen/looted cultural heritage (museums, archaeological sites, antiquities of all sorts).

This is ongoing work, thanks for letting me know if I’ve missed anything, either by leaving a comment below or through tweeting at me.

UNESCO Director-General deplores damage to cultural heritage (press release, En)

Ongoing: The Malawi Natinal Museum in Minya

UPDATE: [Aug 18]

  • Archaeologists have managed to salvage the sarcophagi, mummies and papyri from the Mallawi museum (source)

  • Two statues for the god Osiris have also been recovered from the looted collection of the museum (source)

All the objects are now safe at al-Ashmounein store room.

UPDATE: [Aug 16, 12:30 CLT, 10:30am GMT]

  • The initial looting was carried out by local inhabitants in the middle of the mayhem, not by pro-Morsi supporters as alleged earlier by Ahram Online’s Nevine al-Aref (see below). The death of one Museum’s employee (a guard) was confirmed, and a very tense situation in the vicinity of the Museum is reported.
  • The latest evaluation bring the number of stolen objects to 1,050 (as a comparison, 29 objects were stolen from the Cairo Museum during the #Jan25 Revolution in 2011).

عدد القطع التي سرقت من المتحف المصري وقت تثورة 25 يناير كانوا 29 قطعية، عدد القطع التي سرقت من متحف ملوي 1050 قطعة بجانب حرق 49 قطعة بالمتحف

  • The Malawi National Museum was set on fire later in the evening of August 15. All objects that were not stolen were completely burnt last night mounting for around 49 objects including a mummy.

للأسف الشديد ال49 قطعة بالمتحف الذين لم يتم سرقتهم حرقوا في حريق متحف ملوي ليلة الخميس ومنهم المومياء التي كانت بالمتحف

عدد القطع التي سرقت هي 1050 قطعة اثرية

  • The Ministry of Antiquities (MSA) is announcing a campaign to retrieve the objects & offering compensation for who will return the objects. People who would want to deliver the objects should take them to al-Ashmounein storehouse. People who are unable to go to al-Ashmounein can contact these two persons of the MSA: Mr. Ahmed Askalani: 01236903831/01003609440 and Mr. Usama Talaat: 01009673878. Or you can contact the Egypt’s Heritage Task FOrce campaign’s number: 01144409974 and they will try to offer assistance.

وبالتنسيق مع وزارة الأثار سوف تتم حملة لمناشدة الأهالي برد القطع مقابل مكافأة مالية وتعهد بعدم الماحقة الأمنية.

على الأهالي الذين يريدون رد القطع تسليمهم لمخزن الأثار بالأشمونين والتشديد على عمل محضر استلام واخذ نسخه ونسخة من البطاقة الشخصية للمستلم

وللذين لا يقدرون الذهاب لمخزن الأشمونين التواصل مع مفتشي وزارة الأثار الأستاذ أحمد عسقلاني: /01003609440 والأستاذ أسامة طلعت: 01009673878

أو اتصل بحملتنا: حملة الرقابة المجتمعية على الأثار والتراث على رقم 01144409974 أب بريد الكتروني Heritage.taskforce@gmail.com

All information by Monica Hanna.

— END OF UPDATE

According to the website of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities:

The Malawi Monuments Museum houses a collection of artifacts from the nearby sites of Tuna al-Gebel and Hermopolis. Among the objects on display are a number of animal mummies and statues associated with the worship of the god Thoth.

Opened in 1963, the Museum contained hundreds of rare pieces of and mummies, Pharaonic granite coffins, pottery and coins, from ancient Egypt and the Greco-Roman period, amongst other treasures.

During clashes on Wednesday, August 14, the Malawi Museum was attacked: pro-Morsi protesters allegedly broke into the museum property, adjacent to the town police station and the Malawi council building, and announced their sit-in in the museum’s garden. The assaillants tore down the door and entered all the halls, ransacking all on their way:

Ahram Online reports that no police were reportedly present at the museum. Aswat Masriya reports (Ar) that at least one employee of the Museum has been killed during the clashes (identified by Minya General Hospital). Thus far, it is unclear who stole the antiquities, as these are often attacked whenever there is a security vacuum or major disturbance.

One of the famous objects that got stolen is the famous statue of Akhenaten’s daughter. Credit: FB group Egypt's Heritage Task Force

One of the famous objects that got stolen is the famous statue of Akhenaten’s daughter. Credit: FB group Egypt’s Heritage Task Force

All museums and archaeological sites were closed for security reasons undefinitely, with the Ministry of Antiquities denying reports on breach in the National Museum of Alexandria, and at the Malawi National Museum. Despite alarming and confirmed reports about theft and severe damage in the Malawi Museum, the Ministry of Antiquities re-opened the country’s museums and archaeological sites as normal; only the Malawi Museum remains closed.

Reports by archaeologists claim (Ar) at least 1,000 objects were stolen. More than 600 images of objects have been published, and are on INTERPOL’s tentative Red List. Important: Until a complete inventory is carried out on the Mallawi museum, please alert auction houses, antiquities shops and customs offices of the following objects that could have been looted today from the museum.

In the late evening of Thursday, August 15, the Museum has been reported burning. This is unconfirmed report.

Ongoing: Cairo

The site:

The pro-Morsi protesters are trying overtake the pre-dynastic Naqada II site of al-Maadi in front of the Maadi grand mall to construct a sit-in. Image: FR page Egypt's Heritage Task Force.

The pro-Morsi protesters are trying overtake the pre-dynastic Naqada II site of al-Maadi in front of the Maadi grand mall to construct a sit-in. Image: FR page Egypt’s Heritage Task Force.

Luxor

Reports have circulated that assaillants attempted to enter the Luxor and Karnak Temples in the afternoon of August 14. Apparently, no police presence has been recorded nearby.  At the same time, an image from the Abu el-Haggag square (below) shows the bruning of Horus Hotel. Gun shots are exchanged at that area (source). Meanwhile, the Luxor Antiquities Authority has ordered the closing of all temples in the area, for security reasons (source, Ar), and these have remained so during the whole day of August 15. In addition, the Brigadier-General Bahaa Hamed ensured no floating hotels (cruises boats, that is) have been burnt or damaged. ONTV published a short report (video, Ar) on the situation in Luxor in the awake of the August 14 violence.

Fire in Luxor. Credit: Luxor Times.

Fire in Luxor. Credit: Luxor Times.

Churches and Monasteries

Among the numerous churches attacked on August 14 were these two:

  • The Virgin Mary Church in Minya
The Virgin Mary Church in Minya, attacked on Aug 14. Credit: FB page Egypt's Heritage Task Force

The Virgin Mary Church in Minya, attacked on Aug 14. Credit: FB page Egypt’s Heritage Task Force

Other images from various Christian institutions under attack in Minya available in the dedicated gallery.

  • The Greek Church in Suez
The Greek Church in Suez was set ablaze on Aug 14. Credit: FB page Egypt's Heritage Task Force

The Greek Church in Suez was set ablaze on Aug 14. Credit: FB page Egypt’s Heritage Task Force

Other images from various Christian institutions under attack in Egypt available in the dedicated gallery. No cultural or archaeological site has been reported attacked, looted or damaged in Luxor.

  • Minya: The Abu Fana Monastery suffered an attempted attack on Aug 19. The Monastery dates back to the 5th century AD.
  • Minya (Al-Bahnassah, Beni Mazar): on Aug 17, armed gangs tried to attack the museum and the storeroom, but were dispersed (source, En; source, Ar). The Minister of the Antiquities promised to reinforce the security around the site (source, Ar).

  • Marsa Matrouh (Rommel): in the morning of Aug 17, a group of armed men tried to break in the museum and storeroom (source, Ar).

It seems that the Minister of Antiquities is trying to secure some funds allowing to have more security forces around museums and archaeological sites, and thus to improve their security (source, Ar).

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