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Tutankhamun statue looted from museum

on 11/01/2019

Looters who raided Egypt’s famed museum during the unrest that toppled Hosni Mubarak hauled off a trove of ancient treasures, including a statue of King Tutankhamun, officials said on Sunday.

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The news came as Egytpians celebrated the removal of US-backed strongman President Mubarak over the weekend, which saw the military dismantle parliament and promise a referendum on reform.

The plundered artefacts include a gilded wooden statue showing the boy pharaoh being carried by a goddess and parts of another statue of him harpooning fish, the minister of state for antiquities, Zahi Hawass, said.

Looters broke into the museum in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on January 28 when anti-Mubarak protesters drove his widely-hated police from the streets in a series of clashes, and torched the adjacent ruling party headquarters.

Museum director Tarek al-Awadi said looters went on a rampage, shattering 13 display cases and at least 70 artefacts. He added that curators were still carrying out an inventory to determine the extent of the losses.

The missing pieces include a limestone statue of Pharaoh Akhenaten holding an offering table, a statue of Queen Nefertiti making offerings and a sandstone head of a princess from Amarna, a vast archaeological site in central Egypt.

Also missing were a stone statuette of a scribe from Amarna and 11 wooden shabti statuettes of Yuya, a powerful courtier from the time of the 18th Dynasty, which ruled along the banks of the Nile more than 3,000 years ago.

A heart scarab – an amulet placed on the chest of the mummy to ensure the heart was not removed – belonging to Yuya was also missing, Awadi added.

Arrests made

In all, the press release listed seven individual items and a group of 11 statues as missing.

Soldiers outside the museum on Sunday were tight-lipped about the alleged theft. A lieutenant colonel who declined to give his name said only: “Two or three things were stolen, little things like rings.”

Troops have arrested two or three suspects and were searching for others, the officer said, adding that the looters had broken in through a window.

Founded in 1858 by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, the museum contains more than 100,000 artefacts, including the world renowned – and reputedly cursed – treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb.

The best-known artefact is Tutankhamun’s gold funerary mask, which stares out from a case on the first floor of the museum. The 18th dynasty monarch, better known as King Tut, ruled Egypt in the 13th century BC.

Hawass, in his statement, said an investigation has been launched to find those behind the theft, adding that “the police and army plan to follow up with the criminals already in custody.”

The museum standing on the main protest square was protected by tanks and briefly by a cordon of citizen volunteers during the 18 days of anti-government rallies that ousted president Mubarak and cost at least 300 lives.

The theft recalls the even more disastrous looting of Baghdad’s National Museum in April 2003 following the US invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein, when thieves stole thousands of pieces and smashed several others.


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