Tragic news: The Cairo Museum was looted


The strange saga of the Cairo Museum break-in during the Tahrir Square demonstrations has taken yet another turn.

While initial reports said the museum was booth looted and vandalized, the government later reported that no real looting had occurred.

Now it turns out that the thugs who broke into the museum did steal artifacts, and from the most celebrated site in the history of Egyptian archaeology, the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Egyptologist Zahi Hawass reports on the theft at his blog, where he gives us the list of stolen items revealed in a report from the museum’s staff.

Here’s the inventory of missing relics:

  • Gilded wood statue of Tutankhamun being carried by a goddess
  • Gilded wood statue of Tutankhamun harpooning. Only the torso and upper limbs of the king are missing
  • Limestone statue of Akhenaten holding an offering table
  • Statue of Nefertiti making offerings
  • Sandstone head of an Amarna princess
  • Stone statuette of a scribe from Amarna
  • Wooden shabti statuettes from Yuya (11 pieces)
  • Heart Scarab of Yuya

All the artifacts come from the same time period, the 18th Dynasty. Yuya was a powerful noble and courtier closely tied to both Tutankamun and his father, Akhenaten, who had moved the capital from Thebes to the city he built at Amarna where he attempted a reformation of Egyptian religion into what some scholars believe was the template later adapted by Moses.

The art of Amarna represented just as radical a departure from long-established norms as Akhenaten’s religious reforms, with naturalistic representations replacing the rigid formalism that came before and would soon follow the monarch’s death, just as the capital would move back to Thebes. The bust of the Pharoah’s spouse, Nefertiti, exemplifies the Amarna style.

 

We’re sad to learn of the thefts. For more images of the looted items, see this post from Egyptologist Margaret Maitland’s blog, The Eloquent Peasant.

As Maitland notes:

It is extremely sad, as these are extraordinary works of art of great historical significance. These particular objects all relate to a particular period of Egyptian history, roughly 1390-1322 BCE, that has particularly resonated with people over the past century. The tomb of Yuya and Thuja was one of the first great discoveries of an almost intact burial, echoed again by the even greater discovery of the tomb of their great-grandson Tutankhamun. Both significantly advanced our understanding of ancient Egypt. Akhenaten’s religious, political, and artistic revolution changed Egypt forever and continues to fascinate and inspire today.

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