Museum Security Network

High Alert for Mideast Museums

As political unrest spreads in the Mideast and North Africa, antiquities experts world-wide are growing nervous. The region, often called the cradle of civilization, houses some of the world’s most important cultural treasures. With the break-in by looters at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, followed by scenes of firebombs being tossed perilously close to the museum’s front steps this week, many in the art world fear that no collection in the Middle East can be considered completely safe.

“Any threat to cultural heritage in that area is horrifying to think about,” says Eryl P. Wentworth, executive director of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. Egyptologists have issued an alert for the collecting world to be on the lookout for looted artifacts from the country.

In Tunis, the Bardo National Museum contains one the best collections of Roman mosaics in the world, from the ancient city of Carthage and other parts of Africa, dating from 30 B.C. to A.D. 395. In Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, the National Museum’s treasures include sculptures and steles (slabs of stones with carvings, often placed in temples) from around the time of Christ.

Sudan—Egypt’s neighbor and an impoverished dictatorship whose capital Khartoum has already been hit by protests—is home to statues, fabrics and paintings from the once-powerful Nubian Empire, dating to 2000 B.C. Nubian kings once ruled Egypt. Asaad Ahmad, the Sudanese cultural attaché in Washington, couldn’t say if any damage had been done to the National Museum in Khartoum, or how the museum had been protecting itself. Museum officials couldn’t be reached.

High Alert for Mideast Museums –

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