Egypt’s Looting – Bye Bye Tutankhamun

Looting happens everywhere there’s civil strife. It’s a sad fact. It seems humans can’t help themselves. So what else is likely to be a major target in a country filled with exotic and important historic artefacts than those that belonged to the great boy Pharoah Tutankhamun. Is it right to step in and move these artefacts, even by force, to safer countries, or is that removing something integral to the country where the artefacts belong, and essentially become stealing?

We did it in Athens, Greece remember with the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon (which I saw in London)… for right or wrong…

As a child, I grew up wanting desperately to be either a palentologist or an archaeologist, and whiled away my time cramming up my Egyptology facts. Tutankhamun was quite possibly single handedly responsible for creating my interest in all things Egyptian. Stunning handiwork and unusual practices fill the heads of any imaginative child, but Tutankhamun was so beautifully preserved in the death mask that it carried that interest into thousands of people’s journey into adulthood in the world today. The magic never seems to die.

Unfortunately, during recent civil unrest, and despite guarding the Cairo museum, it seems that looters have got the better of the system, and stolen several important artefacts.

“Thieves have stolen 18 priceless artefacts from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, including two gilded statues of King Tutankhamun, during the political unrest.

Zahi Hawass, the antiquities minister, said the losses were discovered during an inventory of the museum after the protests died down.

Among missing items are a statue of Tutankhamun being carried by a goddess and another of him harpooning. Also stolen is a limestone statue of the pharaoh Akhenaten holding an offering table, a statue of Nefertiti making offerings and several other stone and wooden artefacts…

Restoration work has already started at the museum to repair the damage by looters. Hawass said that 70 pieces were damaged.

The army guarded the museum and its 125,000 antiquities, including Tutankhamun’s funeral mask, throughout the unrest. The building was threatened when the neighbouring ruling party headquarters was burnt down.

At one point, protesters formed a human chain to surround the museum and protect it from thieves and looters.”


It’s nice to see that there are people out there who pitched in to save these artefacts, putting their own lives at risk.

Personally I don’t think we should remove these artefacts, devastated though I would be if they were damaged or irrecoverable. They belong to Egypt, just like the Elgin Marbles belonged to Greece… mind you it didn’t stop us then, so I am left wondering at what stage this intervention will occur. I get the sense it is more a matter of when than if.


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: Beliefs, Morals, Multiculturalism, Politics, Law


Digital and Comms nerd working in an INGO. PhD researcher (technology / gender / International development / fragile and conflict affected states / South Sudan). Bibliophile. Writer. Musician. Views my own.

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One Comment on “Egypt’s Looting – Bye Bye Tutankhamun”

  1. Justin
    February 14, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

    And to think that the Tutankhamun exhibit is travelling to Australia next 😛

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