Looters Desecrate The Soul Of Egypt’s Rich Heritage
The death toll has reached at least 73 persons in the political, economic and class struggle demonstrations in Egypt but what I see equally tragic was the looting of the world’s most documented artifacts in museums and pyramids.
Egypt owns a history so long, deep and rich that in some perspective it makes ours appear puny.
About nine members of a mob at the gates of the Egyptian Museum broke into the poorly secured treasure trove and vandalized a culture’s 2,000-year documented heritage in a matter of minutes.
First, this account from Monday’s New York Daily News, one of many:
Army commandoes were dispatched over the weekend to protect the 108-year-old museum in Cairo’s Tahrir square, where many of the nation’s protesters have gathered over the last week.
“I was so worried,” Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s chief archeologist and secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told The Washington Post. “I have been protecting antiquities all my life. I felt if the Cairo museum is robbed, Egypt will never be able to get up again.”
The Egyptian Museum, which is home to the gold mask of King Tutankhamen, also houses thousands of artifacts spanning the full sweep of Egypt’s rich Pharaonic history.
Egyptian protesters, some wielding billy clubs, formed a human chain at the museum’s front gate to prevent looters from making off with any of its priceless artifacts.
Several warehouses containing ancient Egyptian artifacts, however, were not so fortunate.
A group of looters attacked a warehouse at the Qantara Museum near the city of Ismailia on the Suez Canal that contained 3,000 objects from the Roman and Byzantine periods, a source at the tourism police told Reuters.
An archaeologist said warehouses near the pyramids of Saqqara and Abu Sir were also looted. “At other locations, guards and villagers were able to successfully repel gangs of looters,” he told the news wire service.
“I’m glad that those people were idiots,” he told Time magazine. “They looted the museum shop. Thank God they thought that the museum shop was the museum.”
Nine men reportedly rapelled into the building through the roof. During their search for valuables, they knocked the heads of a pair of 2,000-year-old mummies, broken nearly a dozen small artifacts, and ravaged the gift shop.
The men were all reportedly caught and the stolen items recovered.
And these damage assessment pictures aired Monday by NBC’s morning show.
I understand abandoned police stations attacked and burned by demonstrators. That’s symbolic. To desecrate a heritage documented from 2,000 years before they were born, that’s nuts.
The limits of human rage, passion and stupidity knows no bounds. Some dare call it the price of freedom.