Egypt museum treasures being repaired


Cairo : A statue of ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun standing on the back of a panther is among 70 archaeological treasures being repaired after they were damaged in a failed looting attempt last month during the revolt against President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.

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The treasures also include a 3,000-year-old wooden sarcophagus and skulls dating from the Late Period (664 BC until 323 BC), said Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s minister of antiquities.

Restoration of the damaged treasures was underway and would be completed within five days, said Hawass, a renowned Egyptian archaeologist.

There were fears that Egypt’s famed antiquities museum located in central Cairo could have been destroyed by looters and its priceless artefacts stolen, or that it might have caught fire and have collapsed when Mubarak’s ruling party headquarters next was burnt to the ground on Jan 28 by anti-government protesters.

Egyptian army commandoes managed to secure the museum and its grounds, located near the Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the mass anti-government protests that entered the 15th day Tuesday.

Before the army arrived, young Egyptians – some reportedly armed with truncheons grabbed off the police – created a human chain at the museum’s front gate to prevent looters from making off with any of its priceless artefacts.

Steps are being taken to reopen all of Egypt’s archaeological sites to visitors following the two weeks of unrest, said Hawass.

He said the sites of Memphis, Saqqara, and Abusir were secure and safeguarded by the army and “honest Egyptian people”.

The two mummies that were reported as damaged at the museum after looters ripped their heads off were in fact unidentified skulls dating to the Late Period and were not royal mummies.

The skulls were being temporarily housed in the storage room next to the CT scanner lab, which is in the grounds of the museum. The skulls were there to be used to test the CT scanner, according to the Egypt’s supreme antiquities council.