Malawi Museum in Egypt ransacked

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by Ursula Kampmann

August 22, 2013 – Since long those passionate about the Egyptian past fear for the heritage of the Pharaohs’ Realm. During a civil war, however, no one can guarantee the safety of archaeological sites, museums and historically relevant buildings. We can see already what impact the ongoing conflict has on the inheritance of the nearly 4,000 year long lasting history of the Nile country.

In the night from August 15 to 16, 2013 the Malawi Museum was ransacked. Situated nearby the city of Minya in Middle Egypt between Beni Suef and Assiut the museum, which was founded in 1962, housed findings from Tell el-Amarna, the capital of the famous and notorious Pharaoh Akhenaten, from the nearby temple of Hermopolis, the major cultic site of the god Thot, and from the necropolis of Tuna el-Gebel, where not only humans were buried but also animals’ mummies.

During the attack that led to the killing of an employee of the museum, 1,050 artifacts were stolen according to a statement of the Minister of State of Antiquities. Though, until now there are only few photos on the internet and those available look always the same: showcases were forced open and are now empty, sculptures and heavy objects lay destroyed on the floor.

What exactly happened has not been clarified yet. Some accuse international looters, others extremist supporters of president Mursi who judge the world of the pharaohs so rich in imagery as pagan. At the time being the most trustworthy interpretation regarding the details seems to be given in an article of the Independent Record and being spread by Associated Press since August 19, 2013. It states that the museum was already taken and ransacked on Wednesday. During the attack died the employee in charge of selling tickets. Since police was not able to take care of the situation within the following days due to the general turmoil, youths entered the rooms, burned mummies and pushed down sculptures which the ransackers could not carry away because they were too heavy.

Apparently the heroine of this story is the Egyptian archaeologist Dr Monica Hanna. Despite the presence of snipers she entered the looted museum on Saturday together with local police officials in order to protect at least the remaining objects from further damage. She was, indeed, able to gather 40 antiquities and thousands of fragments. According to her statement teenagers said while destroying the historical artefacts they were doing this revenging the people in Cairo murdered by the government. Apparently these youngsters were only an instrument of a group of men who shot at the archaeologist and her escort trying in vain to drive them out of the building.

According to the Antiquities Department this was, for the time being, the most serious incident involving cultural property. Nevertheless there will be no criminal prosecution. Instead, authorities bank on rewards. Anyone returning items stolen during that attack will receive a small reward.

In a MailOnline article you can see right on top all five photos so far known.

On August 19, 2013 Associated Press gave a different interpretation of the event at Independent Record.

The International Business Times published a statement of the Unesco being horrified over the events in Egypt.

A preliminary list of stolen objects was published at Facebook.

The UNESCO also informs about the robbery.