Left: Damaged statue of King Tutankhamun, recovered after having been missing from the Egyptian Museum since January
Right: Photo of the same statue, intact, from the catalogue of the Metropolitan Museum’s “Treasures of Tutankhamun” exhibition
Photo: Rania Galal
In the various reports of recoveries of objects stolen from the Egyptian Museum, we have learned little (and what we HAVE learned was often implausible) about how they were found or about the identities of “criminals” whom Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s reinstated Minister of Antiquities, has said were caught. It’s beginning to look like we’ll never know more. There have been persistent “inside job” theories from the very beginning, which, if untrue, Hawass should explicitly dispel. Transparency about who has been apprehended, how and why, would be a good start.
Yesterday, Hawass announced that four more objects from the museum had been recovered, including the gilded wood statue of King Tut, above, that had been perched in a boat, throwing a harpoon. The press release calls the damage to the statue “slight,” noting that “a small part of the crown is missing as well as pieces of the legs.” It appears, though, that the harpoon-throwing arm is also damaged (and lacking its harpoon) and that a great deal of gilding is lost. The boat was left behind at the museum (perhaps the harpoon too) when the boy-king vanished, during the ransacking of the Egyptian Museum at the end of January.
The published account of how this latest recovery occurred strains credulity.
Nevine El-Aref of Al-Ahram reports:
Salah Abdel Salam, a public relations personal [sic] at the MSAA [Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs], came upon
these objects during his daily trip to work on the Metro. He related
that he accidently found an unidentified black bag placed on a chair in
the Shubra Metro station. Doubtful that the bag was concealing an
explosive, Salah opened it and found the Tutankhamun statue gazing up at
him. He took the bag and handed it over to the MSAA.
Ummm, whatever. Hawass has made it pretty clear that he won’t inquire too closely about the missing objects’ recent history, as long as they are returned.
Hawass told reporters that he is calling on all Egyptians to return any
objects that they have found [or stolen?]. He emphasized that the MSAA will not file
any lawsuit against them but instead will compensate them [emphasis added].
“If anyone is afraid of handing over such objects they can put it at
the MSAA entrance gate or the Egyptian Museum’s door and we will take
care of them,” announced Hawass.
Paying “compensation” (otherwise known as ransom) to thieves is ordinarily bad practice. But then again, these were no ordinary times.
Hawass has also announced that he will organize a touring art exhibition “that tells the story of the struggles of Egypt’s Revolution.”