Heartbreaking: A Massive Fire Has Just Destroyed Brazil's Oldest Natural History Museum

G1 live feed

A fire has gutted the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, the oldest scientific institution in the country. Most of the 20 million items it contained, including the oldest human remains ever found in the Americas, are believed to have been destroyed.

The cause of the blaze is not known. No injuries have been reported.

The museum, located in a building that once served as the residence for the Portuguese royal family, celebrated its 200th anniversary this year. The fire started on Sunday evening, after the facility had closed for the day.

Aerial images broadcast on Brazilian television showed it spreading throughout the building.

"Two hundred years of work, research and knowledge were lost," Michel Temer, the President of Brazil, said in a media statement, calling it an "incalculable loss" for the country.

Amongst Museu Nacional's treasures is a huge collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts that started way back in the 19th century, and includes the exquisitely detailed sarcophagus of Sha-Amun-em-su, a singer whose coffin has never been opened, still preserving the mummy inside.

Museu National

The museum was also home to one of the largest collections of artefacts produced by various indigenous peoples of the Americas, dating back to long before any Europeans set foot on the South American continent.

These objects include priceless samples of pottery, textile fragments, tools and more from such Andean cultures as the Inca civilisation, Chancay culture and Nazca culture, to name just a few.

he museum also boasts a rich collection of classical antiquity, including a set of unique frescos and a number of everyday Ancient Roman objects salvaged from the ruins of Pompeii.

The museum, which is part of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, is also home to one of the largest scientific libraries of Brazil, containing nearly half a million volumes, including 2,400 rare works.

Burnt pages from documents housed in the museum have been found littering nearby neighbourhoods, according to a report on Brazil's TV network Globo website.

We can hardly express how heartbreaking it is to see two centuries of scientific inquiry go up in flames so easily. One can only hope that at least some of the museum's treasures come out of this devastation unscathed.

Source: Sciencealert, BBC