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Egypt’s museums and monuments are deserted
Hawass said the looters were looking for gold and a fictitious substance called “red mercury” that, according to local lore, can be found in the throats of ancient mummies. Some people think it has magical powers and can be used to summon spirits.
The museum is still checking to determine whether any items are missing. On his website, Hawass said an additional five items that were stolen from an archaeological storage site in Qantara, near the Suez Canal, were apparently discarded in the desert and police returned them Tuesday.
Authorities have recovered a total of 293 objects at the Qantara site, and an inventory was under way.
Hawass sought to project a sense of normalcy, reaching high for comparisons. He suggested that other great repositories of culture — the British Museum and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art — were equally vulnerable to plunder or destruction.
“It can happen to any place in the world,” said Hawass, who faces demands for higher wages from antiquities workers who demonstrated outside his office this week.
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