The Egypt Heritage Task Force group on Wednesday wrote on Facebook that the magnificent statue of the Apis Bull of Hadrian had been broken to pieces while it was being transported from the Graeco-Roman museum storeroom to the Maritime Museum to prepare it for a European exhibition tour of Alexandria's underwater archaeology.
The statue is about 1.90 metres long, carved in basalt and dated to the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd Century CE. It was discovered to the west of Pompey's Pillar in Alexandria and represents the most successful imposition of Greek realism upon an Egyptian image.
The activists claim the statue is a masterpiece and should have never been moved for the exhibition as under the antiquities law, all unique heritage objects cannot travel to exhibitions abroad.
"The statue was moved to be packed to travel even before the official approval of the exhibition was taken," they claim in a statement, adding that the Ministry of Antiquities did not report the incident so that the company responsible for the exhibition would not have to pay the insurance. Instead, they claim, a foreign archaeologist who is also involved in the exhibition paid to get the statue restored.
"The statue was restored badly," one of the activists told Ahram Online but requested anonymity. She pointed out that the statue should not leave Egyptian soil.
"This is still being kept low profile, despite the fact that Ahmed Sharaf, the ex-chief of museums at the Ministry of Antiquities, has been imprisoned on other corruption charges since," she added.
However, the claims by activists have been disputed by the antiquities ministry.
"All that has been published on Facebook or said by the activists is completely untrue and unfounded," Elham Salah, head of Museums Department at the Minstry of Antiquities, told Ahram Online.
"The statue is safe and sound," she confirmed, adding that it arrived safely at the Maritime Museum and was never broken. She describes what has circulated on the internet as an attempt to distort the reputation of Egyptian archaeologists and restorers.
Salah, told Ahram Online that the statue has been in a bad condition since it was unearthed and was restored twice; once immediately after its discovery and the second ten years ago.
The statue, she explained, was selected to travel in an exhibition abroad by a professional archaeological committee from the ministry. "The statue is under restoration now not because it was broken; it is a routine work for any artefact selected to travel to an exhibition," Salah asserted.
Salah called the media not to publish anything before being sure of the news they are publishing and to think more that such false news could have a bad impact on Egypt's heritage and archaeological work.
The Apis bull upon discovery