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Egyptian Museum Recoveries: Five More Missing Objects Reclaimed

Head of UNESCO’s delegation to Egypt: Christian Manhart, chief of the Museums and Cultural Objects Section

The recoveries of some of the 54 objects reported missing from the Egyptian Museum as of Mar. 15 continue.

Nevine El-Aref of Al-Ahram reports that five more objects were recovered yesterday, “with the help of Egypt’s armed forces and the tourism and antiquities police.” (No further details are provided about how or from whom they were recovered.) The recovery of 12 other objects was reported on Mar. 17.

According to El-Aref’s article:

The five [newly recovered] items include four bronze objects depicting different ancient
Egyptian deities, such as Osiris, the cat goddess Bastet, Apis Bull and
Neith. All the returned objects are in good condition except the Apis
Bull, which was broken into several pieces.  With restoration,
archaeologists hope, it can be restored to its original form.
Egyptian Museum Director Tarek El-Awadi believes that the remaining 37
objects remain in Egypt and have not been smuggled out of the country.

To aid in the recovery and protection efforts, UNESCO sent a delegation last week on a three-day tour of the Egyptian Museum and the country’s pillaged archaeological sites. Christian Manhart, who led the mission as UNESCO’s chief of the Museums and Cultural Objects Section, said that its purpose was “to extend a helping hand to Egyptians to restitute their missing heritage.”

Specifically (as reported by Al-Ahram), UNESCO has offered to provide technical and security assistance to the Egyptian Museum, along with possible financial help. ICOM [the International Council of Museums] reportedly has established a Red List of stolen Egyptian antiquities to be sent to Interpol and disseminated internationally. But at this writing, ICOM’s Red List website has not posted an Egyptian database.

There will potentially be much to include on that Red List. On Thursday, Al-Ahram reported that Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, director of the Central Administration for Antiquities in Alexandria and Lower Egypt, announced that some 800 objects were missing from the Qantara-East warehouse. (As far as I’ve been able to determine, that list has not been published online.)

On his website yesterday, former Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass described the Qantara losses and summarized the depredations at other sites. No new Minister of Antiquities has yet been appointed to replace Hawass, who resigned that position but is still issuing statements on his website as if he were in charge.

Speaking of the vacuum at the top, Al-Ahram reported today that “an official letter, signed by top officials and legal consultants in the
ministry of state for antiquities affairs, call for the Egypt’s Prime Minister
Essam Sharaf to appoint a Minister of Antiquities immediately.” UNESCO’s delegation had hoped to meet with the country’s new antiquities officials during its visit. The lack of leadership can only be an impediment to concerted recovery and protection efforts.

Also on his website, Hawass has announced his intention to leave the country, at least temporarily, for various speaking engagements in the U.S. We’ll see if those trips actually happen: He was unable to attend (for undisclosed reasons) his scheduled speaking gig at the 40th anniversary commemoration of the 1970 UNESCO Convention against illicit trafficking of cultural property (possibly because he could not officially represent his country’s new regime; possibly because of unresolved accusations against him, which he alluded to in another post).

In other important late-breaking news
from Egypt:

Al-Ahram today reports that former President Hosni Mubarak, is under house arrest, not in Saudi Arabia as had been rumored.

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