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Wednesday, October 16, 2013
NEWS: Damage limitation looted items go on show at the Egyptian Museum
Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim inaugurated an exhibition, “Damaged and Restored”, comprising 29 artefacts from the collection of the Egyptian Museum, 11 of them looted on 28 January and subsequently recovered. The remaining 18 pieces were all damaged during the looting and have undergone extensive restoration.
Sabah Abdel-Razek, head of temporary exhibitions at the Egyptian Museum, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the museum’s restoration department had done everything possible to restore the items. Unfortunately A gilded wooden statue of the goddess Menkaret supporting Tutankhamun on her head, says Abdel-Razek, was found broken in two in a rubbish bin at the western side of the museum garden. The figure of Tutankhamun is still missing.
Among the objects restored is a statue of Tutankhamun standing on a leopard, one of the Boy King wearing a blue crown and holding an offering table and a third of the pharaoh standing on a papyrus skiff with a harpoon in his right hand. A mummy of a child called Amenhotep which had its head torn off during the looting has been pieced back together. So too has a model of 40 Nubian archers and the Nile pleasure boat of Mesehti, an ancient Egyptian governor of Assiut.
The statuette of Tutankhamun standing on the papyrus boat, was found in pieces. The broken boat was recovered first. Three months later the figure of Tutankhamun was found.
The exhibition also includes a polychrome glass vase, a model coffin, a votive statuette of Huy, scribe to Amenhotep, a statue of the cat goddess Bastet, a statuette of the monotheistic king Akhenaten and a statue of an apis bull with a sun disk and uraeus between its horns.
“Some of these objects took three months to restore, others almost a year,” says Abdel-Razek.
“This exhibition sends a message to the world about how much Egyptians care about their heritage and how much effort they will exert to protect and preserve it,” says Ibrahim. He told the Weekly that he expects more articles that have been smuggled out of Egypt to be recovered in the coming months.
“Objects that have been illegally smuggled out of the country must return to Egypt,” says Ibrahim.
In related news, Germany is expected to issue a law soon returning all stolen objects to their country of origin. The law, says Ibrahim, will make it possible for Egypt to request the repatriation of several ancient Egyptian objects scheduled to come up for auction in Germany.
Negotiations are also due to start with the St Louis Art Museum in the US for the return of the 19th Dynasty mummy mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, a noblewoman from the court of Pharaoh Ramses II. Controversy over the ownership of the mask, on display at the St Louis Art Museum since 1998, has raged for six years now. Though the US government has conceded the mask is being held illegally and should be returned to Egypt, US District Judge Henry Autry ruled that the US government had failed to prove that the mask was stolen and smuggled abroad after it went missing from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo 40 years ago.
On the fringe of the “Damaged and Restored” exhibition Ibrahim returned several objects discovered by Egyptian customs authorities and the Unit for Combating the Trafficking of Antiquities to the ambassadors of Peru and Ecuador.
Three terracotta heads from the Valdivia period, carved between 2,000 and 2,500 BC, were handed to Ecuadorian Ambassador Edwin Johnson. Two Chancay Cuchimilco figures, one male and one female, made between 1,000 and 1,400 AD, were returned to Peruvian Ambassador Alberto Galve. The objects had been intercepted as they were being brought into Egypt by a US-based antiques dealer. The global fight against the antiquities black market, today’s equivalent of grave robbers who plundered the tombs of the Pharaohs millennia ago, is ongoing. Ibrahim told the Weekly that in collaboration with Peru, Ecuador and other countries, Egypt was petitioning UNESCO to change the article in its convention dealing with the illicit trade.