“Luzia” 12,000-year-old cranial skull. (Dornicke/wikicommons)
Between the cause of fire and loss of artifacts, anthropologists look to salvage the remains
Latin America’s oldest natural history museum caught fire on Sept. 3 in Rio De Janeiro, damaging and destroying more than 20 million artifacts from all over the world.
The 200-year-old institution housed dinosaur fossils and human bone fragments, including a 12,000 year old female hominid known as “Luiza.” It also contained a scientific library filled with about half of a million books and documents.
The origins of the flame have not been released and/or determined. However, due to government cutbacks and insufficient resources, there was speculation it was bound to happen sooner or later as the building was deteriorating from the inside and out.
“This is an old building,” said Rio De Janeiro’s fire chief Colonel Roberto Robaday in an interview with The Guardian. “With a lot of flammable material, lots of wood and the documents and the archive itself.”
“For many years we fought with different governments to get adequate resources to preserve what is now completely destroyed,” said the museum’s deputy director Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte in same interview with The Guardian. “My feeling is of total dismay and immense anger.”
As researchers expect clearance to assess what remains beneath the ashes, the community grieves over the ruin.
“We Brazilians only have 500 years of history,” said Mércio Gomes, anthropologist and former president of Brazil’s indigenous agency Fundação Nacional do Índio (FUNAI) on Facebook. “Our National Museum was 200 years old, but that’s what we had, and what is lost forever.”
Of all the content charred and withered, it has burned the natural history and anthropology of our past.