Egypt displays 2,100-year-old looted coffin returned from New York
CAIRO.KAZINFORM A gilded coffin that dated back to the Ptolemaic dynasty, dissolved in 50 B.C., was displayed on Tuesday in the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) in Cairo's Fustat district, Xinhua reports.
The coffin of Nedjemankh, an ancient Egyptian priest, was returned to Egypt on Wednesday after it was determined to be a looted antiquity, said Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, Khaled al-Anany in a press conference.
The coffin was featured at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art after being bought from a Paris art dealer in 2017 for about four million U.S. dollars.
It was removed in February. The Met has apologized to Egypt.
The coffin was smuggled by fraudulent documents including a forged 1971 Egyptian export license, Anany said.
«This is not only for Egyptians, but for our common human heritage,» Anany told the foreign ambassadors who were present at the NMEC.
U.S. Charge d'Affaires Thomas Goldberger attended the ceremony.
Anany said the repatriation of this «unique, wonderful» artifact shows a «very strong solidarity» between Egypt and the U.S..
He extended his thanks to the U.S. side for his cooperation in repatriating the piece to its motherland, noting «the mutual coordination efforts meant to prevent the illicit traffic of human heritage.»
The coffin will be showcased in Egyptian Grand Museum in 2020, according to the minister of antiquities.
The gilded coffin was looted and smuggled out of Egypt in 2011, in the aftermath of the protests, Shaaban Abdel Gawad, supervisor general of Egypt's Antiquities Repatriation Department told Xinhua.
He pointed out that investigations undertaken by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office lasted for nearly 20 months, during which Egypt has submitted evidence of ownership.
The stolen coffin was neither gifted or sold by the Egyptian side to any country, Abdel Gawad said, explaining that before the promulgation of Antiquities Protection Law of 1983, Egyptian law allowed the export of some artefacts.
The coffin is craved in wood and covered with a layer of gold inscribed for Nedjemankh, a high-ranking priest of Heryshef of the city Herakleopolis, which is located in the upper Egypt province of Beni Suweif, he said.
The elaborately decorated surface included scenes and tests in thick gesso relief that were intended to protect and guide Nedjemankh on his journey from death to eternal life as a transfigured spirit, Abdel Gawad added.
The coffin's return back took place in light of the 2016 joint agreement between Egypt and the U.S. regarding the protection of Egyptian Antiquities, he added.
The 2-meter-long coffin was initially restored in the American prestigious museum, but its feet was damaged during the long journey of smuggling, Abdel Gawad added.
«The return of the unique coffin is a message for all the museums, exhibitions, private collections, bids and dealers around the world that Egypt will never abandon its stolen heritage,» he added, stressing Egypt is fighting to return all heritage back.
He reiterated more efforts are still exerted for tracing hundreds of other looted pieces abroad.
Egypt restored around 200 pieces in 2019 and 222 pieces, and 21,660 coins in 2018, and 574 ones in 2017, he added.
«Our main objective now is to add more pieces in many museums inside and outside the capital about our history to attract more tourists,» he pointed out.
Egypt has repatriated its looted antiquities no to keep it safe in warehouses like before, but to display its beauty for the tourists, he added.
The tourism industry, a lifeline to the struggling Egyptian economy, has recently started to recover. Official figures show that growth rates are on the rise and tourists are coming back.