Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities Affairs, Dr Zahi Hawass, announced today that the missing limestone statue of King Akhenaten, the likely father of Tutankhamun, has been returned to the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.
To date, four objects from the preliminary list of missing artefacts have been found; the Heart Scarab of Yuya, a shabti of Yuya, the statue of the goddess Menkaret carrying Tutankhamun, and now the statue of Akhenaten as an offering bearer.
Statue of Akhenaten returned
The statue of pharaoh Akhenaten is one of the unique statues from the Amarna Period on display at the Egyptian Museum. It is
seven forty-three centimeters high and depicts the king standing, wearing a blue crown, and holding an offering table in his hands.
The statue is composed of limestone, with the exception of the calcite, or Egyptian Alabaster, base.
In a statement to the press, Dr. Hawass says that a sixteen-year-old male, one of the protestors at Tahrir Square, found the statue of Akhenaten beside a rubbish bin.
He brought the statue to his home and when his mother saw it she called her brother, Dr. Sabry Abdel Rahman, a professor at AUC. Dr. Rahman, in turn, called the Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs to hand the statue over.
Last night, at the Antiquities and Tourism Police station at Cairo Opera House, an archaeological committee headed by Dr. Youssef Khalifa, head of a committee appointed by the Minister, accepted the returned statue of Akhenaten. The committee approved the authenticity of the statue and confirmed that it is in fact the statue of Akhenaten that was missing. The statue was returned to Dr. Khalifa intact, except for the offering table that was found separately inside the Egyptian Museum (photo showing the statue before the break-in).
Dr. Tarek El-Awady, Director General of the Egyptian Museum, said that both pieces of the statue are now in the conservation lab and would be subject to restoration before being returned to its permanent case in the Amarna Gallery.
Treasures missing from the Cairo Museum
From the preliminary list of missing objects released; four objects this includes the limestone statue of ‘heretic pharaoh’ Akhenaten as an offering bearer have been.
The missing Heart Scarab of Yuya was recovered on the west side of the Egyptian Museum’s gardens, as well as some wooden fragments belonging to the damaged New Kingdom coffin.
One of the eleven missing shabtis of Yuyawas found inside the museum, underneath a showcase, and fragments belonging to the statue of Tutankhamun being carried by the goddess Menkaret have been found as well. All the located fragments belong to the figure of Menkaret. The small figure of the boy king is still missing.
Other objects not yet retrieved are the torso and upper limbs of a gilded wood statue depicting King Tut harpooning, a statue of Nefertiti making offerings, a sandstone head of an Amarna princess, a stone statuette of an Amarna scribe and ten wooden shabtis from Yuya.
In the mean while, restoration works on the items damaged at the Cairo Museum break-inthe statue of King Tut standing on a panther, and the gilded cartonnage mummy bands of Thuya, amongst othersare ongoing.
Further break-ins and looting at Saqqara and Abusir
In a second statement to the press, Dr Hawass announced that several sites have been vandalized. Today, Dr. Sabry Abdel Aziz, head of the Pharaonic Sector of the Ministry of Statefor Antiquities Affairs, reported to the Minister that the tomb of Hetep-Ka, in Saqqara, was brokeninto, and the false door was stolen along with objects stored in the tomb.
In Abusir, a portion of the false door was stolen from the tomb of Re-Hotep. In addition, many magazines also suffered break-ins: magazines in Saqqara, including the one near the pyramid of Teti, and the magazine of Cairo University all had their seals broken.
The Egyptian Military caught, and dismissed, thieves attempting to loot the sites of Tell el Basta; the military also caught criminals trying to loot a tomb in Lischt. There have also been many reports of attacks on archaeological lands through the building of houses and illegal digging.
Egypt tourist sites set to reopen
Despite these troubles, in a bid to see tourists return to Egypt, it was announcedthat all of thePharaonic, Coptic, Islamic, and modern sites would reopen to the public on Sunday, 20 February2011.