There have been no injuries reported after an enormous fire gutted Rio de Janeiro’s National Museum on Sunday, but the toll was still immense. Officials suggested as much as 90 percent of the museum’s collection — encompassing about 20 million objects — was destroyed by the blaze.
Some of the museum’s treasures may have survived, including the remains of Luzia, an 11,500-year-old fossil believed to be the oldest human skeleton unearthed in the Americas. But the fire probably consumed countless other pieces of Brazil’s patrimony: dinosaur bones, ancient mummies, recordings of extinct indigenous languages, myriad artifacts that predated the arrival of Europeans and even temple frescoes removed from the Roman city of Pompeii and transported across the Atlantic. Their graceful images of peacocks and coiled dragons withstood the eruption of Mount Vesuvius two millennia ago, but they may now be lost.