Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Back Home, Cairo: 10 artefacts stolen from the Egyptian Museum recovered

Egypt has recovered 10 pharaonic artefacts, including a gilded wooden Tutankhamun statue, looted during the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, the antiquities ministry said Tuesday.

The pieces were taken from the famed Egyptian Museum near Cairo's Tahrir Square on January 28, 2011, when protesters calling for Mubarak's overthrow drove his feared security forces from the streets.

Along with the Tutankhamun statue, which will be restored by Egyptian experts, two statues of Queen Nefertiti's children were also recovered, according to antiquities minister Mohamed Ibrahim.

Authorities also recovered a stone likeness of Tutankhamun as a young boy that had been broken off of a larger statue showing him in the arms of a goddess.

One missing artefact was found in Belgium and eight others in the United States, state news agency MENA quoted the ministry as saying.

A total of 54 artefacts went missing from the museum when looters broke in during the uprising, mainly treasures from the era of pharaohs Tutankhamun and Akhenaton. Thirty-five of the pieces have since been recovered.

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The stolen artifacts include a Tutankhamun statue made of wood and trimmed with gold and bronze and a bronze statue of the deity Apis dating back to the Greco-Roman era, the minister added in a press conference held on Tuesday at the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones.

Authorities also seized eight Shawabti statues, which are placed in an ancient tomb for the purpose of serving the soul of the buried. Each tomb typically has up to 360 Shawabti statues.

Authorities also confiscated a wooden Shawabti statue of Queen Tuya, an alabaster Shawabti, a wooden Shawabti for Queen Tuya, an ebony Shawabti statue, two other statues with the name of Tuya, a Shawatbi made of cedar wood, and a yellow limestone Shawabti, Ibrahim said in the statement.

Fifty-four artifacts were stolen on January 28, 2011, but the tourism police reclaimed 23 pieces in addition to the 10 artifacts that were seized on Monday. The remaining stolen artifacts are 29 pieces, Ibrahim noted.
The minister added that Egyptian authorities had been informed that some of stolen artifacts had been found in Belgium, noting that such artifacts had not been reported stolen. Egypt’s ministries of foreign affairs, tourism and antiquities reclaimed the artifacts, he said.

An exhibition scheduled for October will be held to display all the reclaimed artifacts that have been stolen over three past years, he added.

The minister added at the conference that Egypt will reclaim three artifacts from Germany and eight others from the U.S. in the next few days. Ibrahim announced in a press statement on Monday that the three artifacts from Germany had been smuggled there in 2009.

Delivery of the artifacts will be viewed by Mamdouh Eldamaty, the cultural counselor at the Egyptian embassy in Berlin, and director of the Egyptian Museum in Berlin Friederike Seyfried, the statement read.

German customs authorities seized the artifacts in 2013 as they were being smuggled to Belgium, the statement added. German authorities held the artifacts in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin until Egypt obtained a court verdict to reclaim the artifacts.

A press conference at the Cairo International Airport will be held to show the three reclaimed artifacts on Saturday, the Ministry of Antiquities said on its official Facebook page Tuesday.

A smuggling attempt of Jewish antiquities to Belgium was recently foiled by Egyptian security, on April 18. The seized artifacts include 11 wooden cylinder Torah cases inlaid with engraved silver and lined with velour, a silver knife dating to 1890, a silver crown and a menorah.

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