Brazil’s National Museum destroyed in inferno, millions of artifacts gone forever

Firefighters and museum personnel carry a burnt painting from National Museum of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil on Sept. 3 2018 following a fire

Firefighters in Brazil assume they learned the cranium of Luzia, an eleven, 500-365 days-ragged skeleton that became the celebrity appeal at its burned Nationwide Museum. Except for the Bendegó Meteorite, which has endured worse, almost all of the 20 million priceless items spanning 11,000 years of global history are feared lost to the out-of-control fire that raced through all three floors of the largest natural history museum in Latin America.

"According to a preliminary report, the fire that engulfed all sections destroyed all its artifacts including those in the pharaonic hall, which contained 700 pieces", Mostafa Waziri, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said in the statement.

Museum officials say nearly 90% of the collection has been destroyed.

As Brazil's National Museum in Rio de Janeiro went on up flames, so did approximately 90 percent of its collection, as well as items on loan from other museums.

The National Museum's collection ranged from archaeological finds to historical memorabilia.

"It's such a shock".

"To maintain the infrastructure of a museum like this is absolutely vital and it's not the most upfront, sexy thing that you can invest money in but it's crucial", Duffek warned. "It's such a sudden and massive destruction", Duffek said. But while no sufficiently preserved DNA has so far been reported from bones older than 1,000 years in South America, technology for the study of ancient DNA is advancing by leaps and bounds and a specimen like Luzia might have concealed genetic secrets.

The Museum of Anthropology has a similar ladle but it wasn't as intricate as the one that was destroyed, Duffek said.

For example, a set of armour from Alaskan Tlingit territory dating back to the 1700s was taken by Russian collectors and later given to the Portuguese royal family as a gift to solidify a relationship between Russia and Portugal around 1812.

The wooden armour from the Tlingit nation was made of painted wood slats and twine and left what is now Alaska in 1812. The Rio de Janeiro federal university did not immediately respond to a question on whether the museum was insured.

That was typical for many items from the Pacific Northwest, Duffek said, where many items were lost "through the whole history of colonization". She said that researchers could get into the museum as soon as next week, but it will depend on how fast federal police could finish their investigation. "We only know that it is enormous".

"At least there's something that remains", she said adding that the digital record of some of the artifacts is a bit of a silver lining.

Some Brazilians see the problems at the museum as a metaphor for the country's broader issues.

"It was a way of making these pieces accessible to the descendants of the communities that they came from as well as scholars around the world", Duffek said. "We wonder what can happen with our souls".

But Dalton de Souza Amorim, a professor of biology at the University of Sao Paulo, said, "The anthropological collections were the worst loss".

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