As a consequence of the political unrest of the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, opportunists and vandals took advantage of the disorder and many magazines and museums, including the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, were broken into, with several artefacts and antiquities being damaged or stolen. Although some were recovered and restored, some objects are still yet to be found.
On 3 May 2011, the Supreme Council of Antiquities released a list of objects missing from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. What is not known to many is that some of the objects included on the list were objects that were originally discovered during excavations carried out by the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) at Tell el-Amarna between 1926 and 1933 and there are archival records to indicate this. Objects found during excavations were drawn and recorded on what are known as object cards. The division of officially-sanctioned excavation finds were then distributed with the Egyptian Antiquities Service at the end of each seasons work. Objects of national importance were retained by the Egyptian Antiquities Service. Everything else was distributed among EES’s institutional subscribers. As a result, the objects from the Tell el-Amarna excavations can be found in many museums throughout the world. This was recorded in distribution lists and also noted on the object cards. The EES Archive has lists of the objects divided to the EES and the museums to which the objects were donated. Although the objects are still lost, using archival material, we can trace the origins of the objects. This highlights the importance of archival material especially as a source to provide evidence of what once existed.
You can have a look at some of the objects that were stolen from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo in the following pages.
This supplements a small exhibition currently being displayed at the EES London office until 26 July, from 11am to 3pm.
Attacks on museums are still continuing. Most recently, amid the unrest following the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi in 2013, the Mallawi museum was one of several ransacked across Egypt, where hundreds of artefacts were stolen from the museum.