Sunday, June 22, 2014

Back Home: Smuggled Egyptian artifacts retrieved from Christie’s Auction House

CAIRO: The Egyptian Embassy in London retrieved twelve artifacts that were smuggled out of Egypt, six of which were stolen by a Briton and displayed in Christie’s Auction House, Al-Ahram reported Monday.

“The six repatriated artifacts, dating back to the New Kingdom period (1580 – 1080 B.C.),  include a red granite relief fragment showing a Nubian face discovered in King Amenhotep II temple on Luxor’s west bank,” head of Antiquities Ministry’s restored artifacts department Ali Ahmed told The Cairo Post.

“The other five artifacts were a collection of limestone stelae and statues of different sizes,” Ahmed added.

In May 2013, Neil Kingsbury was arrested when Christie contacted the Metropolitan Police’s Arts and Antiques Unit (MPAA) that it had identified six antiquities, which were almost certainly stolen from Egypt.

The international arts auction house pulled the objects from the sale list a few days before it was due to start and handed them over to the British authorities.

Kingsbury, who was referred to trial, claimed he inherited said artifacts from his uncle who served in Egypt during World War II and returned to Egypt in the 1950s. During the investigation, Kingsbury said he bought the artifacts from a souvenir shop in Luxor.

In April and after nine-month trial, Kingsbury, who used to work on the BBC documentary drama series “Egypt,” was fined British £500 after he admitted attempting to sell a number of stolen Egyptian antiquities.

Former head of the antiquities investigations department Ahmed Abdel Zaher told The Cairo Post that the other six stolen artifacts include figurines of noblemen dating back to the reign of Tutankhamoun (1332 B.C – 1323 B.C) along with sandstone fragments and clay pots that have been cut from Madinet Habu Temple on Luxor’s west bank.

“The twelve artifacts are expected to return to Egypt by the end of June,” Zaher said and added that it is hard to count the artifacts that were looted since the January 25 Revolution in 2011 since most of them were not registered.

“The Antiquities Ministry does not have documentation proving Egypt’s ownership to the looted artifacts but we asked for its return, since they are ancient objects stolen through illegal excavations,” Zaher added.

Since Kingsbury did not have any documents proving his ownership, they must be returned to Egypt according to UNESCO regulations and Egypt’s antiquities law, he added.

Egypt’s ancient sites have been targeted for thousands of years but the upheavals and the security lapse following the 2011 revolution have helped looters and tomb robbers target museums and several archaeological sites for treasures to sell on the black market.

In the past few months, Egypt restored over 250 artifacts that were looted since January 2011.

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