Looters pillage Egyptian antiquities warehouses

ISMAILIA, Egypt Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:18am EST

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ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters) - Looters have pillaged a number of warehouses containing ancient Egyptian artifacts, stealing and damaging some of them, archaeologists and warehouse workers said on Monday.

A group of looters attacked a warehouse at the Qantara Museum near the city of Ismailia on the Suez Canal that contained 3,000 objects from the Roman and Byzantine periods, a source at the tourism police said.

Many of the objects had been found in Sinai by the Israelis after they occupied the peninsula during the 1967 war with Egypt, and had only been recently returned to Egypt.

A worker at the warehouse said the looters had said they were searching for gold. The worker told them there was no gold but they continued to pillage the storehouse, smashing some items and taking others.

An archaeologist said warehouses near the pyramids of Saqqara and Abu Sir were also looted.

"At other locations, guards and villagers were able to successfully repel gangs of looters," the archaeologist said.

On Friday, looters broke into the Cairo museum, home to the world's greatest collection of Pharaonic treasures, smashing several statues and damaging two mummies, while police battled anti-government protesters on the streets.

The culture, monuments, temples and pyramids of ancient Egypt have left a lasting legacy on the world and are a major draw for the country's tourism industry.

(Reporting by Yousri Mohamed in Ismailia and Patrick Werr in Cairo)

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Comments (8)
Borat wrote:
For the life of me, I can not understand why people destroy their own neighborhoods during times of civil unrest or, in this case, artifacts from their own heritage. What purpose does it serve, other than disconnecting themselves from their ancestors.

Jan 31, 2011 10:18am EST  --  Report as abuse
LibertyRoll wrote:
Idiots! They are the ignorant masses who will defile their own history and destroy their own future. Why would anyone want to go visit Egypt if not to see their rich history? They are destroying their chances for future tourism which could have helped them recover.

Jan 31, 2011 10:57am EST  --  Report as abuse
The tragic destruction of irreplaceable cultural artifacts in Egypt is now known to include regional museums (as reported in this article) as well as the nation’s principal repository of its heritage, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The true scope of the theft and destruction is probably far worse, as we can expect to learn over the coming weeks.

The Egyptian authorities have long insisted on the repatriation of important objects such as the Rosetta Stone (displayed in the British Museum), Nefertiti’s Bust (exhibited at the Neues Museum, Berlin) and other priceless artifacts held by the world’s major cultural institutions. These institutions have proven to be excellent custodians of their collections as shown, for example, by the protection given Nefertiti’s Bust during the utter destruction wrought by World War II.

The main argument for repatriation given by Egyptian authorities has been that Egypt now has a modern and secure museum infrastructure where artifacts returned to the nation will be just as safe, or safer, as in the foreign museums where they are held at present.

That argument has just been blown out of the water. I am sorry to say this, as there is fundamental justice in the repatriation of cultural objects, but it is now indisputable.

I would also add that the conditions at the Egypt Museum, as we can see on the videos of smashed displays, harken back to a century ago: fragile antique wooden cases with thin standard glass, no evidence of climate control or monitoring, etc.

Jan 31, 2011 11:24am EST  --  Report as abuse
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