PRETORIA, South Africa - King Tut's sister is missing and Egypt has issued an international alert for her return.
UNESCO and Interpol are working with Egyptian authorities to recover the priceless artifact, a limestone figurine of the young pharaoh's sister from the 14th century BC. The young girl holds a piece of fruit and her hair flows loosely on one side-a symbol of her youth-but her head is held high, a decidedly regal look on her face.
"This constitutes irreversible damage to the history and identity of the Egyptian people," said Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO.
The statuette, "A Daughter of the Pharaoh Akhenaten," may be considered the most important piece in the Malawi National Museum in the city of Minya, which was looted during a riot in August. The museum was ransacked, sarcophagi and display cases were smashed, and more than 1,000 pieces were taken from the museum. Items too big to be carried away were defaced.
Two teenager rioters said, "The government is destroying their people, so we are destroying this because it belongs to the government," reports the Daily Telegraph.
Destruction of museums and Egypt's cultural treasures have become all too common during the upheavals as the country tries to forge its path to democracy. In August, when the crowds began to gather around the Malawi museum, the provincial chief of police, Col. Abdulsamie Farghali, is said to have called his own family to try to protect the archeological treasures, but the angry crowds proved to be too much.
Police have been able to recover about half of what was stolen, but now UNESCO and Interpol are joining a heightened search for fear that the irreplaceable statuette may be taken abroad and sold on the black market.
"UNESCO is continuing to work closely with the Egyptian authorities as well as with its partners…to fight, by all possible means, the illicit trafficking of these stolen cultural objects," the organization said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian authorities are hoping that this heightened international attention will help bring their princess home.