Egypt’s Antiquities Minister Says Valuable Statue FoundBy KATE TAYLOR
Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s antiquities minister, said on Wednesday that a limestone statue of Akhenaten holding an offering table, among the most valuable of the objects revealed earlier this week to have been stolen from the Egyptian Museum, had been found among garbage collected at Tahrir Square. Mr. Hawass described the discovery, which he said he planned to announce formally on Thursday, in an interview in which he also defended himself against charges that he did not report the missing objects promptly and responded defiantly to protesters who have called for his resignation.
In the days after the museum was broken into on Jan. 28, Mr. Hawass claimed that, while 70 artifacts had been broken, none had been stolen. Last Sunday, he announced that, in fact, 18 objects were missing from the museum. On Wednesday, he said that he had asked the museum’s staff after the break-in about the Akhenaten statue, and they had told him it was there; he suggested that they may have misunderstood him. (A statement on his blog similarly claimed that he had specifically asked about the statue, but also said that, because so many objects that initially seemed to be missing were soon found in trash cans or corners of the museums, Mr. Hawass was “led to believe that a full sweep of the museum might well succeed in locating all of the missing objects.”)
Two of the other missing objects, a heart scarab and a funerary statuette of the nobleman Yuya, as well as the goddess from a statue of a goddess carrying Tutankhamen, were found earlier this week either in the museum or on the museum grounds.
The Akhenaten statue was found in the garbage near Tahrir Square, Mr. Hawass said, by a boy whose uncle was a professor at the University of Cairo. “His uncle called me today, and I sent some of the police and archeologists, and they found it is the statue of Akhenaten,” Mr. Hawass said.
“We are going to look inside all the garbage that they collected from Tahrir Square to find the rest of the objects.” He said that the fact that the statue was thrown away proved that the break in had not been the work of knowledgeable professionals, as he originally asserted.
Asked if his job was imperiled after two protests outside his office this week, in which archeology graduates demanded jobs, accused his department of corruption, and called for his resignation, Mr. Hawass responded angrily. “They say, ‘If you cannot give us a job, leave your job’—I cannot leave my job for some kids in the street,” he said. “If I feel one day that I’m not doing something good for my country, I will resign,” he added.