What was lost in the National Museum fire?

. Sep 04, 2018
national museum fire loss egyptian collection National Museum fire: "total loss"

The blaze which engulfed the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday evening, destroying most of its interior, has caused an incalculable loss to science and culture for both Brazil and the rest of the world. The museum’s archive of over 2 million pieces includes some of the most important anthropological and archaeological findings in Latin America. 

According to British insurance company JLT, no Brazilian museum has insurance against fire to protect permanent collections and buildings – only temporary exhibitions tend to be protected. To make matters worse, Rio’s National Museum’s smoke detectors weren’t working, nor did the institution have the funds to keep firefighters in the building.

While salvage operations are still underway, all signs point to the almost total destruction of the pieces which, on Sunday afternoon, were open to the public.

</span></p> <h2>Luzia&#8217;s skull</h2> <div id="attachment_8258" style="width: 710px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-8258" loading="lazy" class="wp-image-8258 size-full" src="" alt="luzia national museum fire" width="700" height="470" srcset=" 700w, 300w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 700px) 100vw, 700px" /><p id="caption-attachment-8258" class="wp-caption-text">Luzia was probably lost in the museum fire</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The most emblematic artifact lost in the blaze is the oldest human fossil ever found in Latin America: the skull of a woman who lived approximately 11,500 years ago, who was affectionately named Luzia. The fossilized cranium was found in 1975, in a cave close to the city of Belo Horizonte, and was the star of the show of the National Museum’s fossil collection, which was regarded the largest in Latin America.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Besides being historically notable, Luzia’s skull was also crucially important for the development of anthropology in the Americas, as it was after analyzing the fossil that a new hypothesis was created regarding how Latin America was originally populated. Walter Neves, an anthropologist at the University of São Paulo, theorized that Luzia was part of the first wave of migrants to the continent, meaning there would be more than one movement of peoples to the region.  </span></p> <h2>Brazil’s largest dinosaur</h2> <p><img loading="lazy" class="alignnone size-large wp-image-8260" src="" alt="dinosaur national museum fire" width="1024" height="678" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 2048w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Also on display in the National Museum was the skeleton of the Maxakalisaurus, the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Brazil. The creature was the centerpiece of the museum’s Dinosaur Room, which has been one of the best representations of the institute&#8217;s financial woes over recent years.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In 2015, a termite infestation forced the Dinosaur Room to close, meaning the wide range of fossils and bones could not be seen by the public. Having not received sufficient resources from the government, the National Museum was forced to open a crowdfunding campaign in July of this year, in order to be able to reopen the Dinosaur Room. Two months later, however, the collection has been destroyed.</span></p> <h2>Records of the Brazilian Empire</h2> <div id="attachment_464" style="width: 1034px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-464" loading="lazy" class="size-large wp-image-464" src="" alt="Brazilian Empire Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II History Brazil" width="1024" height="487" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><p id="caption-attachment-464" class="wp-caption-text">Museum fire destroyed palace where Dom Pedro II (center) was born</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though it has served as a museum for the last 200 years, the building which housed the National Museum was originally a palace, being the residency of the Royal Family and Imperial Family throughout the 19</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">th</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> century. As a result, the museum’s archive was full of documents from this era, as well as jewelry, furniture and other artifacts used by the leaders of the Brazilian Empire. It was one of the last comprehensive collections from this period.</span></p> <h2>Ancient Egyptian artifacts</h2> <p><img loading="lazy" class="alignnone size-large wp-image-8257" src="" alt="national museum fire egyptian collection" width="1024" height="681" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1920w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The National Museum’s collection of Egyptian architecture is the largest and among the oldest in Latin America, with what became a 700-item archive having been started in 1826, when Emperor Pedro I purchased a number of ancient Egyptian antiques at auction. The collection grew over time, including sarcophagi and mummies of both people and animals, including the coffin of an Amun singer Sha-Amun-en-su, which is extremely rare as it has never been opened.</span></p> <h2>The lone survivor</h2> <div id="attachment_8256" style="width: 810px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-8256" loading="lazy" class="size-full wp-image-8256" src="" alt="national museum fire meteorite" width="800" height="600" srcset=" 800w, 300w, 768w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 800px) 100vw, 800px" /><p id="caption-attachment-8256" class="wp-caption-text">Bendegó &#8216;survived&#8217; <a href="">the</a> museum fire</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As of yet, the only confirmed artifact which has made it through the blaze unscathed is the Bendegó meteorite, a five-ton piece of iron which has been on display in the museum since 1888. The largest meteorite ever found on Brazilian soil (when it was found in 1784 it was the second-largest in the world), being made of heavy metals and having survived a fall from space thousands of years ago, the museum blaze left the meteorite unharmed.

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