12,000-year-old fossil, Brazil’s first human, destroyed in museum fire
RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept 4: Anger smoldered in Brazil on Monday after a fire destroyed the National Museum, a cherished historical repository that lacked a sprinkler system and which had suffered years of financial neglect, making its destruction a "tragedy foretold."
Brazil mourned the loss of the "first Brazilian," Luzia, after the 12,000-year-old fossil was destroyed in a raging fire that ripped through Rio de Janeiro's treasured National Museum.
The jewel in the crown of the museum's collection of 20 million valuable pieces, Luzia was the first human fossil found in Brazil, in the southwestern Minas Gerais state in 1970.
The former imperial palace housed a dinosaur skeleton also found in Minas Gerais as well as 26,000 fossils of extinct species, including the famed saber-toothed tiger.
The rumbling tensions reflect anger over the destruction on Sunday of the much-loved yet dilapidated museum, which suffered from declining federal funding. It stirred emotions in Brazil, whose angry electorate is reeling from a frail economy, widespread graft and rising violence ahead of an unpredictable presidential election in October.
Between 2013 and 2017, the National Museum in Rio's federal funding fell about a third, to 643,567 reais, according to official budget data. The funding cuts were particularly acute this year, with the museum receiving just 98,115 reais between January and August.
Late last year,, after a termite attack shuttered a room hosting the bones of the Maxakalisaurus dinosaur, the National Museum was forced to turn to a crowdfunding site to seek funds for reopening the exhibit. -REUTERS