As Egypt plunges deeper into the political turmoil, looters take advantage of the situation – and the latest robbery of the Malawi Museum in the city of Minya, 300km from Cairo, has been the biggest of its kind in the Egyptians’ living memory.
Looters got away with more than 1,000 objects, including a prized
3,500-year-old limestone statue, ancient beaded jewelry, gold and
bronze Greco-Roman coins, pottery and bronze-detailed sculptures
of animals sacred to Thoth, one of the ancient Egyptian deities
represented with the head of an ibis.
The building was initially vandalized last Wednesday, with
looting and burning going on for almost a week now. Local
teenagers burned and destroyed mummies and other objects of art
which were too heavy for robbers to carry.
The museum’s ticket agent was killed as the theft took place, AP
There were no police or troops nearby to prevent thieves from
Archaeologist Monica Hanna, as well as a security official,
threatened by sniper fire, managed to save about 40 artifacts,
including five ancient Egyptian sarcophagi, two mummies and
several dozen other items left behind in the street by the
“I told them that this is the property of the Egyptian people
and you are destroying it,” the archaeologist related.
“They were apparently upset with me because I am not
Two statues were returned on Monday, according to the head of
museums for the Antiquities Ministry, Ahmed Sharaf. The official
also stressed that no charges would be pressed against those who
will come forward with the looted objects. Moreover, a small
reward will even be given for the returned artifacts.
Meanwhile, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova has condemned
recent attacks against museums and monuments in Egypt.
"Egypt's exceptional cultural heritage is not only an
inheritance of the past, reflecting its rich and diverse history,
it is also a legacy for future generations and its destruction
seriously weakens the foundations of Egyptian society,"
Of course this isn’t the first major looting to have happened on
Egyptian soil since the 2011 uprising: during the 18-day
revolution, looting took place all over the country. In
particular, over 50 items were stolen from the Cairo museum.
However, the head of museums Sharaf said that about half of the
items were recovered at that time.
In December 2011, up to 200,000 rare books were destroyed by the
blaze in the building of the Egyptian Scientific Institute in