Widespread looting of museums and antiquities are occurring across Egypt, not just in Cairo, the news website Bikya Masr reported an Egyptian official saying in a statement. The official called on the global archaeology community to be on “high alert” for ancient artifacts being smuggled out of Egypt.
The website quoted an antiquities official, Mohamed Megahed, saying that “Immense damages to Abusir and Saqqara” have been reported. Looters allegedly have gone into tombs that had been sealed and destroyed much of the tombs and took artifacts, the site added.
Gangs ‘Digging Day and Night’
“Only the Imhotep Museum and adjacent central areas were protected by the military. In Abusir, all tombs were opened; large gangs digging day and night,” Megahed said.
Bikya Masr added:
“According to Megahed, storage facilities in South Saqqara, just south of Cairo, has also been looted. He did mention it was hard to ascertain what, and how much, was taken.
“He said Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) officials ‘are only today [Sunday] able to check on the museums storage, but early reports suggest major looting.’
“Please spread the word to law enforcement officials worldwide.”
“He called on the international archaeology community to issue a ‘high alert’ statement on Old Kingdom remains and Egyptian antiquities in general, “and please spread the word to law enforcement officials worldwide.”
Looters of museums, ‘who may be encouraged by outside Egypt entities, may try to use general confusion to get things out of the country.’”
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Egyptian Museum “Looted by Security Guards”
The looting and destruction of antiquities in the Egyptian Museaum in Cairo on Friday evening was the work of the museum’s poorly paid security guards, a former director of the museum is reported saying on the website of the German news organization Die Zeit.
Wafaa el-Saddik told Zeit Online that the museum’s security guards earned about 250 Egyptian pounds, or 35 euros (U.S.$ 48) a month. “We have about 160 security guards plus several dozen police officers who are basically conscripts in police uniforms. These policemen earn even less,” Wafaa el-Saddik said. Some of the guards had nothing, she added. One sold everything he had to get medicine for his sick child. Others were hungry “even at home.”
El-Saddik also said that the antiquities museum in Memphis and its storerooms “were robbed on Saturday morning completely.” She said she had received calls from the staff asking for help and she had alerted the police and the military.
“The biggest problem is the lack of protection of our museums,” she said.
Related News Watch post: Ancient Treasures Looted, Destroyed in Egypt’s Chaos