by Barry Burch Jr.
To put it kindly, Egypt isn’t going through the best of times right now. The most recent act of terror includes the looting of a museum carrying many ancient and sacred artifacts.
A beloved 3,500-year old limestone statue was stolen; also, ancient beaded jewelry and more than 1,000 other artifacts. This incident represents the largest theft to hit a museum in Egypt in living memory. Sadly, however, it very well may not stay that way. The scale of this particular looting of the Malawi Museum, which is located in the Nile River city of Minya, exposes the many weaknesses inherent in a security vacuum in cities in and outside of Cairo, where police have nearly vanished. The violence in Egypt has left the country broken and battered.
The looting, which occurred last Wednesday, warranted no response from police or soldiers. What the looters could not make away with, some teenage boys vandalized and destroyed. The boys burned mummies and broke limestone sculptures. And on Monday, the security situation grew even more grim as gunmen, who sat atop buildings in the area, fired on a police station close to the museum.
One of the stolen antiquities, included the daughter of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled during the 18th dynasty. Archaeologist, Monica Hanna, said of the exhibit, it was a “masterpiece.”
As reported by the Seattle Times, despite the certain threat of sniper fire, Hanna, with the help of a local security official, was able to salvage five ancient Egyptian sarcophagi, two mummies and several dozen other items left behind by the thieves.
Hanna said that when she asked a group of teenagers to stop destroying the artifacts, they told her ’they were getting back at the government for killing people in Cairo,’ which is just 190 miles south of the museum.
“I told them that this is property of the Egyptian people, and you are destroying it,” she said Monday. “They were apparently upset with me because I am not veiled.”
A group of Egyptian archaeologists called the Egypt Heritage Task Force, use social media to raise awareness about illegal digging for artifacts and looting. They reported that 1,050 pieces had been stolen from the museum.