Four objects looted from the Tutankhamun collection at the Cairo Museum on January 28 during the political unrest that toppled the Mubarak regime have been recovered, Zahi Hawass announced in a press conference on Tuesday. They were found by an employee of the Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs in a bag in an Egyptian metro station, which I suppose is an improvement from being dumped in the trash.
MSAA public relations employee Salah Abdel Salam saw an unmarked black bag sitting unattended on a chair in Cairo’s Shubra Metro station during his daily commute. He didn’t think it was an explosive, so he (recklessly) looked inside and found a gold statue of King Tutankhamun looking back at him. He promptly picked up the bag and brought it with him to work.
“We brought back four pieces first, then 12 pieces after that and five pieces after that and four now. What we are missing now are only 33 objects, are mainly from the late period and I’m very happy to announce that this came to us this morning are very beautiful artefacts from the collection of Tutankhamen,” Hawass said.
There is some damage, especially to the gold statue of King Tutankhamun standing in a boat throwing a harpoon. The statue is missing a piece of its crown and pieces of its legs. The boat remains in the museum (it was never stolen in the first place). The figurine will be reunited with the base, restored and put back on display.
Another recovered artifact that will require some restoration is the top part of Tutankhamun’s fan. The decorative facade on one side of it is intact, while the other side has been broken into eleven pieces. Other parts of it remain missing.
The good news is one of ten missing ushabtis belonging to Yuya and Tjuya, Queen Tiye’s parents (Tiye was the mother of Amenhotep III, father of Akhenhaten, grandfather of Tutankhamun), was recovered in excellent condition. It does not need any restoration and will be returned to the museum exhibit immediately.
The final returned object is a gilded bronze trumpet and its wooden core. Both parts are in fine condition and ready to go back on display as well. This trumpet might have played a role in its own disappearance. According to legend, whenever someone blows into the trumpet, war breaks out. Zahi Hawass says that a museum staffer who was photographing and documenting the artifact had blown into it a week before revolution broke out. The same thing happened right before the 1967 Six-Day War and right before the 1991 Gulf War. Apparently not one of these blowers ever saw The Mummy. :no:
Hawass declared at the press conference an amnesty of sorts for anyone returning looted artifacts. “If anyone is afraid of handing over such objects they can put it at the MSAA entrance gate or the Egyptian Museum’s door and we will take care of them,” he said. No civil or criminal charges will be filed, and in fact there may be rewards for returned antiquities.
Hawass also said that he has met with Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of Army Forces, and they have agreed to establish a security department dedicated to the protection of antiquities and archaeological sites. A force of armed guards will be trained specifically in the safeguarding of ancient objects and sites and will be assigned to museums, open-air sites and storehouses to prevent any further looting.