The recent crisis in Cairo Egypt spread into other parts of the country as well, mostly cities, but also onto some remote archaeological locations. The crisis however, has another side, that of the antiquities situation and the safety of Egypt’s great heritage, treasures both in museums and outdoor sites. Archaeologists, Egyptologists, curators and historians are concerned about the safety of priceless antiquities that were lost, destroyed or stolen during the invasion of the Cairo Museum and other archaeological sites throughout Egypt. During these days of upheaval and government overturn there were conflicting reports that some sites in Saqqara, Abusir and the Giza pyramid fields were damaged as well.
CNN interviewed Jan Summers Duffy of the OJSmith Museum at The College of Idaho who works in Egypt. She stated she was concerned for the future as these are Egypt’s antiquities and hold a place dear to the heart of just about everyone in the world, not only Egyptians. There is nothing like the Treasures of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Tutankhamun, whose tomb was discovered in 1922 an exhibit that has traveled around the world so others can view it as well. From video footage one could see the items scattered all about the floor, broken with some identification possible. Apparently protestors broke in through the ceiling of the museum and went mainly for gold items. It was most disturbing to see that the grandparents of Tutankhamun, Thuya and Yuya, may have been damaged or stolen. That remains to be verified, as no final word on that situation has been stated. However, the SCA (Supreme Council of Antiquities) assured people in a private email stating that some of the information is not accurate. There was vandalism but the Egyptian Army, Inspectors and most importantly villagers were protecting the sites in remote locations and assisting each other in guarding the museums, magazines and storage facilities. The SCA also stated that the vandalism of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo is very complex .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. It went further to say that the 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. A preliminary damage assessment of the Museum in Cairo by Dr. Tarek El-Awady, the General Director of the Museum, Mr. Ibraheim Abd El-Mageid, a Senior Curator at the museum and Ramadan Hussein reported thirteen (13) showcases were smashed and objects were taken out. Fortunately, the thieves were after "treasures", which in their understanding are gold objects. Therefore, they left all the objects of the smashed showcases lying on the floors of the galleries. Some of these objects were found broken, while others intact.
In a local cable television interview Jan Summers Duffy, archaeologist and curator who this past summer worked on a project in the Asasif part of Luxor, said, “ Egyptian people are good people and will protect their heritage as best they can, and I sincerely hope the rioting has not moved to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings area. Word was it had not and that Luxor was basically quiet. Luxor is a pastoral setting with village people and farmers who are peaceful and are proud of their antiquity heritage”.
One of the most important things now to do is to carry out stewardship in asking airports, law enforcement, antiquity dealers and the general public to be vigilant against illicit trafficking of art and artifacts. Egypt holds a tight reign on its antiquities. But in the midst of this worldly crisis for political change, Zahi Hawass was appointed head of a newly created Ministry of Antiquities, doing what it could immediately to save the priceless treasures. Once the world political situation is peaceful and relatively resolved, archaeologists and others hope to hear that the sites they love and had worked on and all outdoor monuments, temples and tombs are safe. Undoubtedly there would be a lot of work to be done in the future in Egypt to help preserve its antiquity heritage.
From Interviews CNN/KIVItv
Jan Summers Duffy