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