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Professor Rushed Into Burning Museum to Save Specimens

Famed skull may have survived Brazil blaze
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 5, 2018 12:55 AM CDT
Firefighters spray water on the facade of the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
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(Newser) – Researchers held out hope that a famed skull and other valuable objects might somehow be recovered from the ashes of a massive blaze that tore through Brazil's National Museum after firefighters found bone fragments from the collection. Officials have said as much as 90% of Latin America's largest collection of treasures might have been lost in a fire that broke out Sunday, the AP reports. Aerial photos of the 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," says 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. Other parts of the collection were saved when a zoology professor rushed into the fire. Paulo Buckup says he and a few other people pulled out mollusks and marine specimens as the fire gathered steam, going into and out of the building several times until it became too dangerous. He said the group tried to identify in the dark the most irreplaceable objects, but they only saved a "minuscule portion of the heritage that was lost." With the cause still under investigation, the disaster has led to a series of recriminations amid accusations that successive governments haven't sufficiently funded the museum.

(Read more Brazil stories.)

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