Statue of Akhenaten returned
Today, I announced that the missing limestone statue of King Akhenaten, the father of Tutankhamun, has been returned to the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. This unique statue, which dates from the Amarna Period (ca. 1353-1336 B.C.), is 37 centimeters high and depicts the king standing, wearing a blue crown, and holding an offering table in his outstretched hands. The statue is made of painted limestone, and stands on a base of Egyptian alabaster.
I was informed that a sixteen-year-old male, one of the protestors at Tahrir Square, had found the statue of Akhenaten near the southern wall of the museum, and took it home. The boy's family immediately called the Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs to arrange for the statue's return to the Museum.
Last night, at the Antiquities and Tourism Police station at Cairo Opera House, an archaeological committee headed by Dr. Youssef Khalifa, Director of the Stolen Antiquities Department of the Ministry, accepted the statue of Akhenaten from Dr. Abdel Rahman. The committee confirmed its authenticity and identified it as the missing sculpture. The piece was intact and undamaged, except that the offering table was missing; this had already been found separately inside the Egyptian Museum. Dr. Tarek El-Awady, Director General of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, said that both pieces of the statue are now in the conservation lab and would be restored before being returned to its permanent case in the Amarna galleries. Of the museum objects identified as missing so far, this brings the total recovered to four: the heart scarab of Yuya, a shabti of Yuya, the figure of the goddess Menkaret carrying Tutankhamun, and this statue of Akhenaten. I have ordered the Museum's Registration, Collections Management, and Documentation Department to continue a careful inventory of the collection. Updates will be released as this work continues, but must be considered preliminary until the inventory is complete.
Egyptian sites to reopen
After a meeting with other members of the Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs, and the Antiquities and Tourism Police to discuss security measures, we concluded that all of the Pharaonic, Coptic, Islamic, and modern sites would reopen to the public on Sunday, 20 February, 2011. It is my hope that tourists from around the world will soon return to Egypt.
I am very sad to announce that several important antiquities sites have been vandalized. After a preliminary inventory had been taken, Dr. Sabri Abdel Aziz, Head of the Pharaonic Sector of the Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs, reported to me the following incidents: At Saqqara, the tomb of Hetepka was broken into, and the false door may have been stolen along with objects stored in the tomb. I have arranged for a committee to visit the tomb this coming Saturday to compare the alleged damage with earlier expedition photos. In Abusir, a portion of the false door was stolen from the tomb of Rahotep. In addition, break-ins have been confirmed at a number of storage magazines: these include ones in Saqqara, including one near the pyramid of Teti, and the magazine of Cairo University. I have created a committee to prepare reports to determine what, if anything, is missing from these magazines. The Egyptian Military caught and released thieves attempting to loot the site of Tell el Basta; the military also caught criminals trying to loot a tomb in Lisht. There have also been many reports of attacks on archaeological sites through the building of houses and illegal digging. I have asked the sector heads in the Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs to prepare full reports for each site under their jurisdiction.