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The Case of the Stolen Tut Treasures

We all know that pyramid supremo Zahi Hawass tends to talk through his hat at times, and at other times doesn’t always tell the full story. But the following incongruity may have broader implications. Vincent from the excellent Talking Pyramids website has noted a change in the story about how some of the stolen King Tut artifacts (during the Egyptian uprising earlier this year) were recovered by a government employee.

Here’s Al Ahram’s original version of the recovery of 4 missing Tut artifacts:

Salah Abdel Salam, a public relation personal at the MSAA, came upon these objects during his daily trip to work on the Metro. He related that he accidently found an unidentified black bag placed on a chair in the Shubra Metro station. Doubtful that the bag was concealing an explosive, Salah opened it and found the Tutankhamun statue gazing up at him. He took the bag and handed it over to the MSAA.

Hawass did not immediately echo this story on his website, but four days later posted about it on his own blog – except MSAA employee Salah Abdel Salam has suddenly turned into simply “a person” who turned up directly on Zahi’s steps out of the blue with the bag, rather than handing it over to the MSAA.

But now, in this recent Scientific American interview, this is apparently how it happened:

Hawass: And we’ve brought back most of King Tut’s objects that had been stolen.

Interviewer: And where were they? Where did you find them?

Hawass: Those were taken by the looters who entered the Cairo Museum on the night of January 28. We tracked them, and had people to ask and people to give us information. We got the objects of King Tut because there was someone working for the antiquities department who came to me and said that there were looters who wanted to return these objects back to me. And the next day he brought a bag with four objects.

Interviewer: And these looters approached the department official anonymously.

Hawass: It’s a long story. He was sitting in a café, and heard them talking, and they said they need to return these objects to Zahi Hawass because they trust him.

Hawass appears to be talking about the same event – a government official coming into possession of four Tut items, in a bag, through sheer luck. If so, why the disparities (most especially, “abandoned bag at a train station” vs “overheard conversation in a cafe”)? Added to reports like this one and this one, and you start to wonder about the real story here.

Whatever the truth of the matter, you have to giggle at the line “they need to return these objects to Zahi Hawass because they trust him”. Nice touch Z!

(n.b. The stolen items did not include the Tutankhamen’s death mask – I just had the image at hand to illustrate the story).

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