Recovery of famous treasures raises hopes of more finds in Brazilian museums

first_img Recovery of famous treasures raises hopes of more finds in Brazilian museum’s ashes By Herton EscobarOct. 23, 2018 , 7:15 AM CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) “We are only collecting in places where they have to clear the ground to anchor the walls,” said museum Director Alexander Kellner. The status of the paleontological collection, which contains several reference specimens of dinosaurs and pterosaurs—Kellner’s specialty—is still undetermined. Some collections that were kept in adjacent buildings, such as plants, mammals, and marine invertebrates, were not affected.Believed to be about 11,500 years old, Luzia’s skull was discovered in 1975 by a team of French-Brazilian archaeologists in a cavern of Minas Gerais state, known as the Red Cave. It was a celebrity in the museum’s 20-million-item collection. The skull is in pieces now because the glue that held it together melted in the heat of the fire. Some parts were broken, but the damage was “less than expected,” Carvalho said. For safety reasons, the skull and a piece of Luzia’s femur were kept isolated on the ground floor, separated from the rest of the anthropology collection on the third floor, which collapsed completely. The status of this remaining material is unknown. Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country From the scorched rubble of the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, scientists have recovered one of the museum’s most prized possessions: the skull of Luzia, believed to be one of the oldest sets of human remains in the Americas. Researchers recovered it last week from inside the metal case and metal cabinet where it was kept—broken and scarred, but in good enough shape to be reconstructed. “It was like a member of the family coming back to us,” says archaeologist Claudia Carvalho, who is overseeing recovery efforts at the museum.A famous meteorite called Angra dos Reis, dating back 4.5 billion years to the beginning of the solar system, was also recovered from a metal cabinet.The two finds offer scientists a glimmer of hope that more treasures may be recovered from the remains of the museum, which was almost entirely destroyed by a fire on 2 September. A complete damage assessment and recovery operation is expected to begin next year, after the structural integrity of the building is secured. Scientists are allowed inside only briefly now, to accompany the construction teams that are reinforcing the walls and federal police offices who are still investigating the cause of the fire. Email Claudia Carvalho, National Museum of Brazil Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe We are not giving up on our collections. We want them to be reborn, even if it take decades. Luzia’s skull is in pieces because the glue that held it together melted under the heat, but the damage was less than expected. Founded 200 years ago, in June 1818, the National Museum held vast archaeological and natural history collections, including zoology, botany, paleontology, and mineralogy. Scientists had been warning for years that the building—a historical palace that served as a residence for the royal families that ruled Brazil in imperial times—was deteriorating and vulnerable to fire. But the museum, maintained by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, lacked funds to make the necessary adjustments. The fire completely gutted the inside of the museum, leaving only the outside walls standing.“Although we lost a significant part of our collections, we didn’t lose our capacity to generate knowledge,” Kellner wrote in a letter he released last week, addressed to Jair Bolsonaro and Fernando Haddad, the two presidential candidates in Brazil’s runoff election on 28 October. Keller asked both to “commit to the reconstruction of the museum” and ensure that the necessary funds are available in 2019. “Unfortunately, I haven’t heard back from either of them,” he says.The assessment and recovery process will essentially be an archaeological dig, to salvage not only the artifacts, but also the information and history associated with them. “We are not giving up on our collections,” Carvalho says. “We want them to be reborn, even if it take decades.”last_img

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