The artifacts damaged at the Egyptian National Museum in Cairo last week will be restored in five days, Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities said on Monday.
Among the 70 artifacts vandalized during anti-government protests, the most significant are a statue of King Ahkenaten wearing the blue crown and holding an offering table, King Tutankhamun’s gilded walking stick and a wooden statue of King Tut standing on the back of a panther.
The damage was caused by about six people who broke into the museum through its windowed ceiling using ropes.
“One of those people fell down on a showcase while going down using the rope. He got injured and could not escape, and was arrested inside the museum. The army also arrested about 10 more people who tried relentlessly to scale the western museum surrounding wall,” Zahi Hawass, Minister of Antiquities, said in a statement on Monday.
According to Hawass, the thieves were “ignorant” people who took out the objects from their showcase and dropped them on the floor when they realized that they were not made of gold.
The thieves also ransacked and vandalized the newly opened museum gift shop, which they believed it was the real museum.
“The funny part of the story is that only the books of the gift shop remained untouched. Looters are never interested in books, I guess,” Hawass said.
He added that the looters were desperately looking for a mummy in order to find “red mercury,” which it is fabled to be a magical substance used by the ancient Egyptians in mummification.
For this reason they smashed a New Kingdom empty coffin.
“These incidents show the ignorance of the vandals,” said Hawass.
The newly appointed Minister of Antiquities also clarified what happened to the two mummies whose heads were photographed lying on the floor among scattered bones.
“When the crisis erupted, I took a very quick walk through the museum and thought that the two skulls thrown on the floor of one of the side rooms might belong to some of the royal mummies examined in our DNA research project on the royal mummies (the Egyptian Mummy Project), namely those found in KV55,” Hawass said.
In particular, he feared for the mummies of Akhenaten (from tomb KV55), Queen Tiye (also known as the Elder Lady from KV35), and the mother of Tutankhamun (also known as the Younger Lady from KV35), which are housed in vitrines next to the second royal mummy room on the west side of the museum.
“I am happy to report that they all are safe and untouched,” Hawass said.
He confirmed what was reportedon Friday by Discovery News, namely that the two mummies were “unidentified Late Period individuals that were going to be used to test the CT machine.”
“They were two already disembodied heads being temporarily stored next to the CT scanning lab in the museum’s grounds,” Hawass told Discovery News.
A team of 11 members has already begun the restoration work, starting from the statue of Akhenaten carrying an offering tray.
“On the staff of the Egyptian Museum is Nadia Lokma, one of the best experts on wood conservation in the world,” Bob Brier, senior research fellow at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University, said.
“For her master’s thesis she restored Tutankhamen's chariot, a project that took years. I guarantee you she is already planning how to restore the broken Tutankhamen objects to their former glory,” Brier, one of the leading experts on mummies and Egyptology, said.
Lorenzi, Rossella. 2011. "Damaged Ancient Egyptian Artifacts to Be Restored". Discovery News. Posted: February 7, 2011. Available online: http://news.discovery.com/archaeology/damanged-egyptian-artifacts-to-be-restored.html