The Looting and Protection of Egypt’s Treasures

Christopher Heaney in Not Even Past:

ScreenHunter_01 Feb. 15 01.09 This weekend, as Cairo’s protestors struck their tents and tidied up Tahrir Square, a clean-up operation of another sort was underway nearby: in the Egyptian Museum, home to King Tutankhamen and countless other archaeological treasures.

The museum had haunted the protests since they began in late January. In the first few days of the unrest that toppled President Hosni Mubarak on Friday, newspapers were quick to note that a group of looters had broken through a skylight, apparently searching for gold. Although Tut’s famous mask was thankfully under lock-and-key, the intruders knocked over or damaged approximately 70 artifacts. In one of the many exciting turns of the last several weeks, however, Egyptian neighborhood patrols surrounded the museum and caught the would-be thieves.

“I’m standing here to defend and to protect our national treasure,” one man told the AP. “We are not like Baghdad!” shouted another. The looting of Iraq’s National Museum in 2003 was on every observer’s mind.

The Egyptian military arrived soon after, took the looters into custody and made the museum a base of operations. Just outside, Tahrir Square became the protests’ center. It seemed to be a victory for Egypt’s people and its military.

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