In the battle for Egypt, priceless art and antiquities may be a silent victim

The unrest blighting the major cities of Egypt has fixated the Western media for over a week now.  At the centre of it is the capital, Cairo - a city steeped in ancient historical significance but currently mired in serious political and civil turmoil.

Although it has been reported, limited media attention has been devoted to the danger posed by the protests to the myriad treasures, artifacts and antiquities of ancient Egypt that call Cairo their home.  While the Great Pyramids are unlikely to be affected, the collection of the Egyptian Museum already has been.

A break-in last Friday saw the museum partly looted, with glass cabinets shattered and priceless relics damaged.  Such reprehensible behaviour has put an irreplaceable and unique shrine to human culture in genuine peril.  It therefore seems appropriate to highlight some of the exceptional items housed there.

The contents of the Egyptian Museum are quite remarkable.  Consisting of 120,000 pieces from over 7000 years of history, the collection documents the history of one of the most important civilisations in history.


The Mask of Tutankhamun
The Mask of Tutankhamun, held in the Egyptian Museum

Two of the most famous exhibits are the death mask and gold sarcophagus of Tutankhamun, Pharaoh of Egypt around 1330BC.  His perfectly preserved mummy, along with these amazing relics, was discovered in 1922.

The museum also contains various resin-coated mummies excavated from the famed Valley of the Kings, where many of Egypt's most famous rulers were buried.  Experimental art from the age Akhenaten - the controversial Pharaoh and father of Tutankhamun - is also housed there, as well as hundreds of sculptures, gilt coffins, ancient papyrus, stone and wood statues, and many other precious items.

Collectors and investors know better than most the value of historic and unique items, whether they are two decades or two Millenia old.  Many wonderful treasures that make fantastic investments are donated to or bought from museums, the Egyptian Museum included.

Ancient Egyptian collectibles are very much sought after by collectors, as highlighted by our November article on the wonderful art collection of Dr. Mohammed Farsi.  In October last year, Bonhams held a successful auction of many Egyptian antiquities - including an ancient turquoise hippo - selling for thousands of pounds.

The chaos in Egypt should act as an important reminder that the protection and preservation of ancient art, artifacts and antiquities is very important, as both a way of paying tribute to the past but as way of investing in the future.


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