Mon, Feb 14, 2011 - Page 5 News List

UNREST IN NORTH AFRICA: Major pieces stolen from Egypt museum: minister

AFP, CAIRO

Several major pieces have been stolen from the Egyptian Museum, including a statue of King Tutankhamun, Egyptian Minister of State for Antiquities Zahi Hawass said yesterday.

The objects missing from the famed museum included “a gilded wood statue of the 18th Dynasty king Tutankhamun being carried by a goddess” and parts of “a gilded wood statue of Tutankhamun harpooning,” Hawass said in a statement.

Looters broke into the museum in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Jan. 28 when massive protests against then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak drove his despised police from the streets in a series of running battles.

Also missing are a limestone statue of Akhenaten holding an offering table, a statue of Queen Nefertiti making offerings, a sandstone head of a princess from Amarna — a vast archeological site in the southern province of Minya.

A stone statuette of a scribe from Amarna, and 11 wooden shabti statuettes of Yuya, a powerful Egyptian courtier from the 18th Dynasty that ruled Egypt 3,000 years ago, were also missing, Hawass said.

A heart scarab — an amulet placed on the chest of the mummy to ensure the heart was not removed — belonging to Yuya was also missing, he added.

Founded in 1858 by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, the museum contains more than 100,000 Egyptian artifacts, including the world renowned — and reputedly cursed — treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb.

The best known artifact is the teenage monarch’s gold funerary mask, which stares out from a case on the first floor of the museum.

Hawass said an investigation has been launched to find those behind the theft.

“The police and army plan to follow up with the criminals already in custody,” he added.

The museum was protected by army tanks and for a while by citizen volunteers during the protests.

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