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Firefighters work as a massive fire engulfs the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, one of Brazil's oldest, on September 2, 2018.
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The natural history and anthropology museum was founded in 1818 by King Joao VI and is considered a jewel of Brazilian culture, housing more than 20 million valuable pieces.
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Five hours later they had managed to smother much of the inferno that had torn through hundreds of rooms, but were still working to extinguish it completely.
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The collection included art and artifacts from Greco-Roman times and Egypt, as well as the oldest human fossil found within today's Brazilian borders, known as "Luzia."
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The museum also housed the skeleton of a dinosaur found in the Minas Gerais region along with the largest meteorite discovered in Brazil, which was named "Bendego" and weighed 5.3 tons.
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People watch as a massive fire engulfs the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, one of Brazil's oldest, on September 2, 2018. - The cause of the fire was not yet known, according to local media. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
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The National Museum, which is linked to the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, has suffered from funding cuts.
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As flames raged researchers, professors and university students expressed a mix of sorrow and indignation, with some calling for demonstrations Monday in front of the ravaged building.