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Egypt Is Getting Its Artifacts in Order

June 12, 2004|From Reuters

Egypt is about to begin the painstaking task of cataloging and restoring about 90,000 Pharaonic artifacts and other items that have lain almost forgotten for decades after being dug from ruins.

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities, said work started about three weeks ago to move the artifacts from the basement of the country's main museum into storage elsewhere.

From there the artifacts will be recorded, photographed and restored if necessary -- a job that is expected to take about five years.

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo boasts a wide array of antiquities, including the death mask and other artifacts from the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamen. But visitors also encounter a vast quantity of dusty and poorly labeled showcases.

Hawass said the museum had been the storehouse for most finds from foreign archeological digs since it was built more than 100 years ago, but poor curatorship meant items often were difficult to find or became lost among the piles of boxes.

While the artifacts are being cataloged, the basement will be renovated so the items can be properly stored on their return. The renovation will allow the museum to reduce the size of its permanent display to improve its design, Hawass said.

Egypt is planning a new Grand Museum near the pyramids at Giza to house many of its treasures.

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