Thieves stole around 1,000 relics from museums and archeological sites across Egypt since protests against the government broke out in January, Egypt's minister for antiquities Zahi Hawass said Sunday in a newspaper interview.
"We are investigating all the incidents to find the items. Up until now we have identified many culprits, criminals who were looking for gold or mummies and who lacked knowledge of the value of the items they stole," he told Spanish daily El Mundo.
"They were not organized, they lived near the archeological sites where the objects were kept. They would take advantage of the night to enter the archeological sites and pillage," he added.
"About 1,000 objects were stolen, none of them major items. There is an inventory of everything and it will be difficult for the items to leave the country."
The inventory of all the items that were stolen during the uprising and the weeks of unrest that followed will be given to UNESCO, the UN cultural agency, Hawass said.
The tomb of Hetep-ka at Saqqara and the tomb of Em-pi at Giza as well as the Egyptian museum in Cairo, which houses most of the King Tutankhamen collection, were among the places targeted by thieves, he added.
Hawass was named minister of antiquities last month. He had served as head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and later became minister of state under ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
A statue of King Tutankhamun, which was looted during Egypt's anti-government protests, has been returned to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo along with three other pharaonic artifacts, Zahi Hawass, Minister of State for Antiquities, announced today.
Stolen when vandals and looters broke into the Cairo museum during the January revolution that brought down President Hosni Mubarak, the statue, cataloged as JE 60710.1, is one of three gilded wooden statues of King Tutankhamun that were declared missing in March (the official list of the items that were stolen from the Egyptian museum included a total of 63 objects).
Showing the boy king standing in a boat and throwing a harpoon, the statue suffered a minor damage.
"A small part of the crown is missing as well as pieces of the legs. The boat is still in the museum, and the figure of the king will be reunited with it and restored," Hawass, who was named minister of antiquities last month, said in a statement.
One is the pharaoh's gilded bronze and wooden trumpet (JE 62008).
"It was received in excellent condition and will be put on display immediately," Hawass said.
Also returned was a part of Tutankhamun's fan. One face is in good condition, while the other has been broken into 11 pieces.
The fourth retrieved piece is a shabti statue cataloged as JE 68984. It is one of 10 missing shabtis belonging to the pharaonic couple Yuya and Tjuya, which recent DNA tests identified as King Tut's great-grandparents.
"It is still in very good condition. It does not require restoration and will be placed on display again immediately," Tarek El-Awady, director of the Egyptian Museum, said in a statement.
About 1,000 relics have been stolen from museums and archeological sites across Egypt since protests against the government began in January.
Hawass announced today that a special police force will be set up to protect sites and museums around the country.
AFP. 2011. "About '1,000 Relics' Stolen During Egypt Uprising". Discovery News. Posted: April 10, 2011. Available online: http://news.discovery.com/archaeology/egypt-uprising-looted-artifacts-110410.html
Lorenzi, Rossella. 2011. "Priceless Egyptian Treasures Returned". Discovery News. Posted: April 12, 2011. Available online: http://news.discovery.com/archaeology/priceless-rgyptian-artifacts-returned-110412.html