- CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt is
about to begin the painstaking five-year task of cataloguing and restoring
some 90,000 pharaonic and other artifacts which have lain almost forgotten
for decades since they were dug from ancient ruins.
- Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council
for Antiquities, said Sunday that work started about three weeks ago to
move the artifacts, now in the basement of the country's main museum, into
- From there the artifacts will be recorded, photographed
and restored if necessary -- a job that will take about five years.
- The Egyptian Museum in Cairo boasts a stunning array
of antiquities, including the death mask and other artifacts of the boy
king Tutankhamun. But visitors are also confronted by a vast quantity of
dusty and poorly labeled showcases.
- Hawass said the more than 100-year-old museum had been
the store for most finds from foreign archaeological digs since it was
built, but poor curatorship meant items were often difficult to find or
lost amidst the piles of boxes.
- "The basement in Cairo museum is like a maze of
corridors... No one knows anything about it," he told Reuters.
- A search is currently under way for 36 Roman bracelets,
discovered in 1905, which have apparently disappeared. Hawass said they
were last recorded as part of a exhibition that returned from Japan in
- "I sent all papers to the district attorney to find
out about the case, but I believe personally that the bracelets are in
the museum," he said, blaming the disappearance on poor curatorship.
- While the artifacts are being cataloged, the basement
will be renovated so the items can be properly stored on their return.
The renovation will enable the museum to reduce the size of its permanent
display to improve its design, Hawass added.
- "We are going to have a basement like the basement
of the British Museum that you can put artifacts, numbered, cataloged,
and we are training the curators for the first time to understand what
is the meaning of a curatorship," he said.
- Egypt is planning a new Grand Museum near the pyramids
at Giza on the edge of the capital to house pharaonic treasures.
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