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Egypt Launches Exhibition Of Returned And Restored Artifacts

posted 1 Oct 2013, 06:24 by Mpelembe   [ updated 1 Oct 2013, 06:25 ]

An exhibition of artefacts recovered following a theft from the Egyptian Museum in 2011 opens in Cairo, following a successful project to restore the items, many of which were badly damaged.

CAIROEGYPT (SEPTEMBER 29, 2013) (REUTERS) -  An exhibition of ancient Egyptian artifacts that were recovered following their theft during the 2011 uprising has opened at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Hundreds of artefacts were stolen during the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time President Hosni Mubarak and in the two and a half years of turmoil since.

The greatest losses were at the Egyptian Museum, where Egyptian authorities say some 54 artefacts went missing. Twenty five of those objects were recovered, and the damage that was caused to many of them has since been repaired by Egyptian restoration experts, taking as long as six months in some cases.

"Destruction and Restoration" includes eleven pieces that were stolen and later recovered and 18 damaged objects that have been restored.

Among the artefacts on display are a diorama of Nubian archers marching in formation that dates back to the Middle Kingdom (2124-1981BC), also damaged in the break-in.

The exhibition includes priceless statues of King Tutankhamun standing on a Leopard and another of the boy king standing on a papyrus boat which were damaged when the museum was broken into on January 28, 2011.

Neither of those items were stolen when thieves took advantage of the chaotic situation in nearby Tahrir square to plunder the world's greatest repository of ancient Egyptian artefacts.

Restoration expert Mohamed Al-Sayyed says thieves damaged the artefact when they raided the museum.

"These statues, the soldiers, were broken when the thieves came down from hall number 37 from the top floor. They broke this window and broke some of the wooden statues inside. We retrieved it from the military personnel who were present and who were responsible for security in the museum. We took it inside to our administration and we collected these soldiers once more and they were displayed again after being restored," he said.

The opening of the exhibition was attended by the ambassadors to Cairo of Peruand Ecuador, to commemorate the return of stolen Ecuadorian and Peruvian artefacts that were recently recovered in Cairo.

Egypt's Antiquities Minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, opened the exhibit and said he hoped it would help encourage tourists to come back to Egypt.

Egypt's tourism industry, a vital sector of the economy, has been devastated by the country's political turmoil.

Ibrahim said the restoration process had saved some of the exhibits.

"The facilitation of the return of 25 pieces was made possible, and some of these pieces were damaged to a great extent. Such as the two statues we are standing next to, which are from the Tutankhamun collection, which were attacked to an extent that can be called disastrous. The truth is that the restoration professionals in the Antiquities Ministry undertook the impossible by restoring the previous appearance of these artefacts," he said.

Also on display is the restored mummy of a child named Amenhotep which was damaged in the break-in. Thieves separated the head of the mummy from the body and restoration expects say they have now reattached it using natural materials similar to those that would have been used in the mummification process.

An ebony, gold and ivory fan that belonged to King Tutankhamun, notable for its staff shaped like a papyrus stem, also features. Egypt's antiquities authorities say that the upper part of the staff, which resembles a lotus flower, was broken into 12 pieces when it was stolen.

Ibrahim said Egypt was working with Peru and Ecuador to press UNESCO to tighten up the conventions on the theft of artefacts so that stolen items will be easier to track.

And with 28 invaluable items still missing Egypt's antiquities authorities say they are continuing their efforts to restore Egypt's lost heritage.