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Stolen Heritage: Two Gilded Tut Statues Among 18 Objects Purloined from Egyptian Museum


LEFT: Gilded wood statue of Tutankhamun harpooning, Egyptian Museum—torso and upper limbs of the king now missing (Photo from “Treasures of Tutankhamun” exhibition catalogue, 1976)

RIGHT: Gilded wood statue of Tutankhamun being carried by a goddess, Egyptian Museum—now missing (Photo: Paul Lombardo [via])

The sad and shocking results of the complete inventory that Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, had promised us on Friday are now in: On his website yesterday, Hawass reported that 18 objects (11 of which are wooden shabti statuettes from Yuya) have been removed from the museum. Hawass had previously stated that “nothing was stolen from the museum” during the break-in on Jan. 28.

Hawass now writes:

An investigation has begun to search for the people who have taken these objects, and the police and army plan to follow up with the criminals already in custody….In another terrible turn of events, last night a magazine in Dahshur was broken into; it is called De Morgan’s. This magazine contains large blocks and small artifacts.

Some of the missing pieces are composed of stone or ungilded wood, which belies Hawass’ previously stated assumption that looters at the museum “were looking for gold” (for the intrinsic value of that material), rather than for objects that are valuable as antiquities.

The most complete account I’ve found of this unexpected and dismaying development is from Jason Keyser of the Associated Press, who writes that the most important of the missing pieces may be this one:

Limestone statue of Akhenaten holding an offering table, Egyptian Museum, now missing (Photo: tutincommon [via])

About that statue, Keyser quotes the museum’s director, Tarek el-Awady, as saying:

It’s the most important one [of the missing objects] from an
artistic point of view. The
position of the king is unique and it’s a beautiful piece.

Also beautiful are the partially missing statue of Tut harpooning (pictured at the top) and the damaged statue of Tut standing on a panther, both of which I marveled at during my two visits to the “Treasures of Tutankhamun” show at the Metropolitan Museum, back in 1978.

Margaret Maitland in her Eloquent Peasant blog, observes (scroll down):

It is odd that the Akhenaten sculpture was initially announced as being
damaged but is now known to be stolen. It suggests that there may be
more sad news in days to come.

I assume Maitland is referring to Hawass’ report in this post in which he stated that a “standing statue of the king carrying an offering tray,” which was contained in a vandalized case of objects from the Amarna period (when Akhenaten reigned), “sustained very minor damage and is repairable.”

At this writing, there are low-quality images of only three of the stolen objects on Hawass’ website. (As far as I can tell, the Egyptian Museum’s website is not functioning, at this writing.)

The Egyptian Museum’s most urgent priority, aside from assuring the security of what remains within, must be to post and widely circulate high-quality images of what’s missing, along with information about where sightings of this stolen property should be reported.

an ArtsJournal blog