ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

search

2,500-year-old looted sarcophagus returned to Egypt from US

Three-meter-tall coffin, which may have belonged to priest named Ankhenmaat, was stolen and smuggled via Germany into US in 2008; returned in official Cairo ceremony

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, center, standing in front of an ancient wooden sarcophagus, speaks during a handover ceremony at the foreign ministry in Cairo, Egypt, January 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohamed Salah)
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, center, standing in front of an ancient wooden sarcophagus, speaks during a handover ceremony at the foreign ministry in Cairo, Egypt, January 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohamed Salah)

CAIRO — An ancient wooden sarcophagus that was featured at the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences was returned to Egypt after US authorities determined it was looted years ago, Egyptian officials said Monday.

The repatriation is part of Egyptian government efforts to stop the trafficking of its stolen antiquities. In 2021, authorities in Cairo succeeded in getting 5,300 stolen artifacts returned to Egypt from across the world.

Mostafa Waziri, the top official at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the sarcophagus dates back to the Late Dynastic Period of ancient Egypt, an era that spanned the last of Pharaonic rulers from 664 BCE until Alexander the Great’s campaign in 332 BCE.

The sarcophagus, almost 3 meters (9.5 feet) tall with a brightly painted top surface, may have belonged to an ancient priest named Ankhenmaat, though some of the inscription on it has been erased, Waziri said.

It was symbolically handed over at a ceremony Monday in Cairo by Daniel Rubinstein, the US chargé d’affaires in Egypt.

The handover came more than three months after the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office determined the sarcophagus was looted from Abu Sir Necropolis, north of Cairo. It was smuggled through Germany into the United States in 2008, according to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg.

Mostafa Waziri, top official at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, takes a look with a magnifier at an ancient wooden sarcophagus during a handover ceremony at the foreign ministry in Cairo, Egypt, January 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohamed Salah)

“This stunning coffin was trafficked by a well-organized network that has looted countless antiquities from the region,” Bragg said at the time. “We are pleased that this object will be returned to Egypt, where it rightfully belongs.”

Bragg said the same network had smuggled a gilded coffin out of Egypt that was featured at New York’s Metropolitan Museum. The Met bought the piece from a Paris art dealer in 2017 for about $4 million (NIS 14 million). It was returned to Egypt in 2019.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed
image
Register for free
and continue reading
Registering also lets you comment on articles and helps us improve your experience. It takes just a few seconds.
Already registered? Enter your email to sign in.
Please use the following structure: example@domain.com
Or Continue with
By registering you agree to the terms and conditions. Once registered, you’ll receive our Daily Edition email for free.
Register to continue
Or Continue with
Log in to continue
Sign in or Register
Or Continue with
check your email
Check your email
We sent an email to you at .
It has a link that will sign you in.