Update: 2 mummies destroyed in Cairo Museum

A quick update as I continue to be riveted by the events in Egypt: Zahi Hawass said on State TV that he examined the museum this morning and found that some looters had indeed broken in at some point last night before the building was secured.

“I felt deeply sorry today when I came this morning to the Egyptian Museum and found that some had tried to raid the museum by force last night,” Zahi Hawass, chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said on Saturday.

“Egyptian citizens tried to prevent them and were joined by the tourism police, but some (looters) managed to enter from above and they destroyed two of the mummies,” he said.

They ripped off their heads, to be precise. The mummies appear to have been from the Pharaonic period. The ticket office and gift shop were also stripped bare. I’m guessing looters were looking for cash and easily salable items, hence the focus on the museum administration rather than on the collection of 120,000 priceless ancient artifacts.

Broken display case in Cairo Museum, still from Al Jazeera footageAn AP camera crew allowed inside the museum reported seeing at least ten broken display cases and the artifacts they had contained scattered and damaged. All of them were found in the building, however, and Hawass is optimistic that the broken pieces can be restored.

Damaged artifact in Cairo Museum, still from Al Jazeera footageThe NDP building continues to burn, but firefighting crews are now handling the blaze. Hawass remains deeply concerned that the burning building could damage the museum if it collapses, and even if it does remain standing, between the fire, smoke and now water there are many ways the museum and its contents could suffer from the proximity.

Elsewhere in the country, other ancient sites and museums are also in peril. Hawass says the army has yet to answer his call to protect sites in areas where people have been evacuated. There have been local efforts to ensure the security of Egypt’s heritage. Authorities erected barriers and put guards around the temple of Karnak in Luxor, and there’s a ring of tanks, no less, around Luxor’s museum.

Protesters outside Cairo museum, NDP building burning next to it

14 thoughts on “Update: 2 mummies destroyed in Cairo Museum

  1. Why the hell would they rip heads off if they were looking for loot? Did they think the mummies swallowed something to smuggle it into the afterlife?

    1. I read one report that said looters were caught trying to run away with the heads, so perhaps they had some notion of selling them off? It could just as easily have been an impulsive act, though.

      1. Surely there’s not a black market for mummy parts anymore? I know they used to be used for medicine and paints, years ago.


        1. Sadly, mummies are still widely trafficked on the black market. People get busted trying to smuggle them all the time, from Peru to the Middle East. Whole mummies are more “desirable,” of course, but a head is a lot easier to conceal and still provides a lot of impact for buyers.

  2. Yummy. Mummy head.

    Whose heads were ripped off? Do we have their names? (They were people, after all).
    I guess once you get to be 2000 – 4000 years dead and you’re preserved like a lab rat, you become a spectacle to be sold rather than a person to be respected.

    1. I haven’t come across any names in the news stories. Hawass does not seem to have provided IDs for the mummies, which, after all, he may not even know.

      I don’t think you can really extrapolate generalities about people’s attitudes towards human archaeological remains from how a bunch of looters acted during a time of massive unrest.

      1. As per my Egyptian Museum book which I picked up Dec 2010…One of the images on National Geographic’s site seems to be Ramses II which makes me very very sad.

        1. This is not Ramses I-II-IV-IV-IX. I don’t even think those are mummies from the Royal Mummy-room. I have been there 2 weeks ago and I don’t recognize these mummies. Maybe those are mummies from the “storage-room” (where they keep mummies and things without showing it)?

          I’m from The Netherlands, hopefully my English is understandable 🙂

          Grtz Sonaya

  3. Let’s return all antiquities to these countries… their heritage is something they will preserve so well for the world. :boogie:

  4. Not only that, but the beoken mummy head appears to have been someone who died at a much younger age than Ramses was when he died.

    Ramses II was 90 years old at the time of death. His mummy looks like that of a 90-year-old man. The broken mummy head looks like a person much younger.

  5. I think that it is sad for looters to destroy things in museums like it is bad enough that these mummy’s were taken from their original resting place to be viewed by the world but then again we would never know about their life in the past.With Egyptians,pharaohs,mummies, and artifacts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.