Endangered Yemen Mummies

Irreplaceable Museum Mummies Latest Casualty of Yemen Civil War

The civil war in Yemen has claimed more than 10,000 lives during the past two years, and now it’s hurting the country’s cultural institutions by destroying museum mummies. Art and other museum pieces are frequently lost during widescale wars, which ultimately hurts the heritage and economy of any area afflicted by this specific issue.

The civil war in Yemen is racking up a sorrowful toll [Image by Hani Mohammed/AP Images]

After all, when a destructive war finally comes to an end, it’s up to each affected nation to rebuild as quickly as possible. Many precious art pieces were lost during World War II, and they’re still being recovered. In fact, a major collection of this stolen art worth $1.35 billion was found in 2013.

If those pieces had been in their rightful places after the war, they would have likely helped drive up museum admissions. Additionally, private owners would have had more resources for recovering from the financial losses they suffered during the war. In both scenarios, the European economy would have benefited from being able to better preserve all of these precious works of art.

Sadly, a similar issue is plaguing Yemen. Unfortunately, though, there will be no future recovery of the museum mummies. Once they’re gone, they can never be brought back, which will undoubtedly make it harder for the museums of Yemen to attract local and tourist visitors.

How Are the Mummies Endangered?

Bombings alone have obliterated some of Yemen’s national heritage, but the mummies in question have faced a much longer and slower second death. Many museum enthusiasts may not have a good understanding of what it takes to keep ancient relics properly preserved. When it comes to mummies, it’s absolutely essential for the host museum to have access to preservative chemicals, dehumidifiers and electricity.

The fighting in Yemen has robbed the Hall of Mummies in Sanaa from having any of these necessary components. As a result, the mummies are beginning to decay. Even worse is the fact that they’re infected with bacteria, which will speed up the decaying process and make the mummies much more difficult to save.

Electricity is a common casualty in war-torn areas. This issue was further compounded when the Sanaa airport was closed. Without the airport, it’s impossible for museum officials to get their hands on the preservative chemicals that could help keep the mummies from turning into nothing more than dust. These chemicals must be applied every six months for sanitizing purposes. Before the museum ran out, they could use the preservatives to fight the growth of bacteria.

What Happened to the Airport?

The Sanaa International Airport was the main resource for air travel in Yemen. It was closed in August 2016. Originally, the airspace closure that caused the airport to shut its doors was only supposed to last for 72 hours. Despite repeated pleas from humanitarian groups, the country’s largest airport is still closed. This means that the people of Yemen cannot get out, and humanitarian supplies cannot get in.

International Airport Sanaa Yemen
Int’nl Red Cross ferries aid via Sanaa Airport before the closure [Image by Hani Mohammed/AP Images]

The museum mummies are now suffering because no new chemical preservatives have been allowed to enter the country for nine months. Unless something changes soon, Yemen is going to lose yet another of its historical treasures.

The Cultural Losses of Yemen’s Civil War

To date, several medieval structures have been leveled by the fighting. Attacks have also displaced a Jewish community that dates back to 1,000 BCE. None of these important historical markers can be recovered, and this is a huge loss for the nation’s heritage, morale and future ability to attract tourists. It’s hard to predict when or how the Civil War in Yemen will end, but one thing that’s become absolutely clear is that museum mummies and other precious artifacts are going to pay a huge price for this modern conflict.

[Featured Image by Patrick Landmann/Getty Images]

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