The Egyptian Museum etc

So, the latest news is that the Egyptian Museum in Cairo continues to be the front line of fighting between the pro Mubarak 'protestors' / hired mob (depending on whom you believe) and the anti Mubarak protesters - the army is no longer in charge of the Museum really, and more or less staying out of things in theory. Yesterday evening Cairo time the pro Mubarak thugs were throwing Molotov Cocktails, also known as petrol bombs, at the Museum or in it's general direction. The army managed to put these out - several fell into the garden of the Museum, although there is some dispute over whether or not one fell on the building itself - and used water cannons against the mob to try to drive them back.

The Museum's main problem is it's prime location - next to the ruling party's headquarters, on Tahrir Square where the protests are taking place.

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As I write the Museum is again on the front line - the line up seems to be Museum, then barricades, then army, then pro Mubarak mob throwing stones at them (by stones I mean they are tearing up slabs of paving or anything they can find, breaking them up into throwable chunks and ...). 

Nouraddin Adbulsamad last night blamed the Mubarak regime for deliberately sending thugs to target the Museum and called on Mubarak to resign.

Zahi Hawass initially spoke of the damage caused to various museums and sites in Egypt, but since his promotion to the Cabinet has started to deny all but minor damage in Cairo and Qantara - this must be the official Party Line as there is no other way it makes sense.

Despite his claims, reports coming in from both Egyptian and foreign archaeologists working in Egypt confirm that there was substantial looting in Saqqara and at Memphis.

The photo appeared in a few places and apparently shows locals illegally digging at Abousir.

There is some confusion over 'sealed' tombs that were raided or not. These are excavated tombs that were then used as store-rooms for other archaeological material, and 'sealed' with a padlock - Hawass claims the padlocks were broken off and nothing more, other archaeologists are talking about items being removed and in some cases of murals being hacked away. Again, this is very difficult to confirm.

This morning reports are again trickling in of attempts to loot sites during the night - thankfully of attempts that were foiled by locals.

A few points I find interesting:

a) the Director of the Royal Jewellery Museum hid it's contents, so clearly must have had some clue that something was going wrong to make him take this kind of pre-emptive action

b) the looting mostly seems to be of the vandalism / destruction rather than the stealing to re-sell kind. A number of museums' staff have said that the looters repeatedly asked where the gold objects were. This suggests to me that the looters are at least partially aware of how difficult it would be to sell antiquities, and so are looking for items whose material is valuable in itself.

This is one of the two mummies in Cairo that Hawass initially said had been decapitated by the robbers. He is now saying that the heads had long been separated from the bodies, and that these heads were in the lab being tested rather than in a display case.

This sounds very odd, because firstly it would suggest that the robbers had managed to get into far more parts of the museum than previously thought. The bones also look broken in the background of the photo, and this detail of the neck to me suggests a recent break.

Nobody is sure whose mummy this was - to me it looks Late Period, but Egyptology is not my field and this isn't really the sort of time to try bluffing my way in mummification techniques.

One damaged mummy was originally thought to be linked to this cartonage of Tjuya, which led to the assumption that she and her husband Tuya had been damaged. This is because the casing used to be displayed still attached to the body, but Aidan Dodson has pointed out that they were separated some time ago ...  So we're back to square one of having no idea who the damaged mummy is.

A few minutes ago Zahi Hawass released this photo on his web site (here) of a mummy head. It's not the same one as in the AP photo above, and is presumably the second head he's been talking about.

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