Egypt: Egyptologist Blogger Surveys Museum Damage

This post is part of our special coverage of Egypt Protests 2011.

To the dismay of Egyptians, world citizens and Egyptologists everywhere, the famous Cairo Egyptian Museum was vandalized and looted on Friday January 28, as the government imposed a curfew and police abandoned their posts.

The museum is located on Tahrir Square at the heart of Cairo protests. Vandals climbed the walls and stole or broke many precious artifacts as they rummaged the remains of the tombs of ancient pharaohs looking for gold.

Taking matters into their own hands, citizens patrolled the museum and formed a human wall against the looting of historic artifacts. As @theplayethic tweeted a link to an AFP photo:

The human wall protecting Cairo museum. So beautiful #egypt

Margaret Maitland, an Egyptologist at Oxford University, has identified some of the damaged pieces on her blog The Eloquent Peasant. In updates to one post (with more than 80 comments) over several days, she has gone through pictures from Al Jazeera and Flickr and placed them alongside photos of how pieces originally appeared intact. “Tragic” and “devastating” are just some of the word she uses to describe what has been lost:

I’ve now identified the smashed wooden boat as also belonging to the tomb of Meseti at Asyut (Cairo 4918). It’s one of the largest model boats in existence, measuring over 1.5 metres, and it dates to approximately 2000BC, so over it’s 4000 years old. Very sad.

She also adds:

There are worrying reports of archaeological sites and museums around the country being targeted but no concrete information as of yet. Nevertheless, I am still inspired and awed by the valiant efforts of ordinary Egyptian citizens taking a stand to protect the heritage of which they are so proud. For whatever damage has been done, it’s possible that it could have been much worse without their help. My focus on this site is on the artefacts because that is what I’m best able to comment on, but my thoughts are with the Egyptian people.

Xeni Jardin wrote about the looting in a blog entry on BoingBoing, linking to Maitland's blog as well as several mainstream media reports.

As a reaction to the looting, @halycon_ tweeted:

sending my support out to those protesting in Egypt. but to those museum looters shame on you. that's your heritage, how dare u destroy it

@Motamaredah praises those who stood up and protected the museum:

وقفة احترام و تقدير لمن وقف ليحمي الآثار المصرية من السرقة /Respect to the ppl who stand to protect the Egyptian museum #25jan #egypt

This post is part of our special coverage of Egypt Protests 2011.

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