Wed | Dec 12, 2018

Fragments found in Brazil museum fire provide some hope

Published:Wednesday | September 5, 2018 | 12:00 AM
The National Museum, seen from above, stands gutted after an overnight fire in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Sept. 3, 2018. A huge fire engulfed Brazil’s 200-year-old museum, lighting up the night sky with towering flames as firefighters and museum workers raced to save historical relics from the blaze. (AP Photo/Mario Lobao)


Firefighters found bone fragments from a collection in the still-smouldering National Museum, an official said Tuesday, raising hopes that a famed skull might somehow have survived a massive blaze that turned historic and scientific artefacts to ashes.

Flames tore through the museum Sunday night, and officials have said much of Latin America's largest collection of treasures might be lost. Aerial photos of main building showed only heaps of rubble and ashes in the parts of the building where the roof collapsed.

The firefighters "found fragments of bones in a room where the museum kept many items, including skulls," said Cristiana Serejo, the museum's vice-director. "We still have to collect them and take them to the lab to know exactly what they are."

In its collection of about 20 million items, one of the most prized possessions is a skull called Luzia, which is among the oldest fossils ever found in the Americas.

Museum spokesman Marcio Martins noted that the collection contains hundreds of skulls, and all material would first need to be examined by the Federal Police, who are investigating the still-unknown cause of the fire. Experts will then examine them to determine their identity.

Investigators were first allowed to enter the main building Monday, but it is still off-limits to researchers. Instead, some scientists were focusing attention on an annex on the site, where vertebrate specimens were housed. The fire didn't reach the area, but it caused the electricity to fail, threatening some artefacts.