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article image'Significant' number of artifacts recovered from gutted Brazil museum

By AFP     Feb 13, 2019 in World

A "significant" number of artifacts has been recovered from Brazil's National Museum which was gutted by fire five months ago, devastating one of Latin America's most important natural history collections, according to the team of experts picking through the debris.

While the exact quantity saved "is difficult to establish" at this point, the team was encouraged by the finds, its leader, archeologist Claudia Carvalho, told reporters on Tuesday.

The museum's director, Alexander Kellner, said 2,000 items had been recovered and registered, but explained many were fragments of one item.

"Thanks to this success, we have an agreable problem: we need a lot more containers because we don't have a lot of space" to store the finds, Kellner said.

He added that the museum, located in a park in northern Rio de Janeiro, soon planned to exhibit the recovered artifacts.

The National Museum fire on September 2, 2018 wiped out much of the collection, dealing a hard blow to the main showcase of Brazil's anthropological heritage and history.

Since then, dozens of anthropologists, archeologists and paleontologists have spent nine hours a day, six days a week combing through the ashes and charred structure of what used to be an imperial palace. The facade still stands, though all that was inside and most of its roof were destroyed.

Among the recovered relics are fragments of "Luzia" -- the fossilized, 12,000-year-old remains of a human considered the centerpiece of the musuem's collection.

There is also a five-ton meteorite called Bendego which survived the blaze. And some fragments of a dinosaur, Maxakalisaurus topai.

Dozens of experts have spent months combing through the ashes to recover what artifacts they can. Th...
Dozens of experts have spent months combing through the ashes to recover what artifacts they can. The task is to continue through this year
Mauro PIMENTEL, AFP

Carvalho admitted, though, that several collections were entirely lost, among them one that catalogued five million insects. What remained was able to resist the fire to some degree.

"We still need to evaluate that. There are collections of things we still don't know how much we will be able to recover," she said.

The painstaking search and recovery task is expected to continue throughout this year. At the same time, work is moving forward to rebuild the museum building.

Brazilian police are still investigating the causes of the fire.

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