AL-MUKALLA: Residents in the Houthi-held city of Sanaa in Yemen have found what is purportedly a 2,000-year-old mummified body in the garbage. The discovery sparked fury among Yemenis, in particular archaeologists who have long fought to protect and conserve historic artifacts during the long-running war in the country.
The Sanaa-based General Organization of Antiquities and Museums announced on Wednesday it had acquired a mummy that had been abandoned in trash. It blamed “tomb robbers and antiquities traffickers” for exhuming the corpse, opening its stomach, and then discarding it.
“It has been sent to the National Museum in Sanaa for preservation, where specialists from the commission will cure the onset of bacterial decay and undertake research,” the organization said.
Ancient Yemenis, it added, were the third people, after Egyptians and Chileans, to perfect embalming techniques, and mummies have been found in the highlands of Sanaa, Mahweet, Dhamar and Shibam. The oldest of the mummies, which are currently housed in the Sanaa University Museum, dates back about 3,200 years.
Archaeologists, politicians, journalists and the general public have demanded an end to the looting and smuggling of the country’s antiquities.
Abdullah Mohsen, a Yemeni researcher who tracks antiquities smuggling, said the mummified remains that were discovered might date back to Yemen’s old kingdom, 2,000 years ago, and that the disposal of the ancient artifact in the trash is a “crazy” crime.
“In the land of Saba, Himyar, Qataban, Awsan, Ma’in, and Hadramout, it is natural to find ancient mummies in mountain caves and rocky graves,” he wrote in a message posted on Facebook.
“But the discovery of a mummified body at a Sanaa rubbish dump would be a calamity and the height of irresponsibility.”
Khaled Al-Ruwaishan, Yemen’s former cultural minister, expressed sadness and anger that ancient remains had been treated in this way.
“My sorrow and rage over the fate of a nation and its people is immense,” he said on Facebook.
Archaeologists believe that the person who found the mummy dumped it after failing to sell it or find a place to store it.
“He may have feared getting apprehended or facing legal action,” an archaeologist, who asked not to be named, told Arab News. “He thus threw it away.
“I once got a phone call from someone claiming to have discovered a mummy on a mountain and who was looking to sell it. I declined his request since I do not want to deal with smugglers.”