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Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Our Treasures Abroad, London: Ancient Egyptian coffin lid sold for £12,000 - despite Cairo officials attempting to block auction
lid of an Egyptian coffin discovered in Britain has sold at auction for £12,000
- despite authorities in Cairo attempting to stop the sale.
Stephen Drake was checking out the contents of a seaside house after the death
of the owner when he found the cobweb-covered relic. It was standing upright in
a room only accessible through a hole an outside wall, complete with painted
face and faded hieroglyphics.
Drake consulted historians at the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge who said the
sarcophagus cover appeared to date from 330 BC. At the request of the home
owners he entered the 6 ft 5in tall Egyptian artefact into an auction.
Ministry of Antiquity in Cairo instructed the Egyptian embassy in London to try
to prevent the sale - suggesting it had been 'illegally removed from Egypt.'
embassy official told The Independent: 'We tried to encourage the auction house
to convince the family that we are keen to repatriate it to its country of
origin. 'We wanted them to give it up voluntarily but unfortunately they
refused.' He added that sellers or owners of Egyptian antiquities 'should have
proper provenance and an export licence.'
embassy official described such items as our treasure, part of our history and
our culture', adding: 'This is not a normal commodity; you have to give
perspective to the cultural element here and our right to repatriate this.'
Egyptian Embassy are believed to have reported the proposed sale to Scotland
Yard, but it is understood that the police are powerless to act as it is a
civil matter. Defending the sale auctioneer Mr Drake said: 'Legally we are
allowed to sell it; the vendor wants us to sell it for them, we are acting on
coffin lid was found in a house, in Bradwell-on-sea, Essex, which was being
used to belong to big game hunter and journalist Captain William 'Tiger' Sarll
who is thought to have found the artefact in Africa and brought it back to
believe the coffin was made for 'Hor, son of Wenennefer', but there was no sign
of the rest of it at the house. Captain Sarll died in 1977 and his wife
continued to live in the house until her death in 2005.
Drake, 55, said: 'It really was quite bizarre. I'd been asked to look at the
house by relatives of the previous owner, who'd died. 'When I got there the
renovation work was fully under way, and a large hole had been smashed in one
of the outside walls.
I stuck my head through and looked inside, I was surprised to see the coffin
lid leaning up against a wall in the corner, covered in dust and cobwebs. 'There
was a painted face on it and some hieroglyphics. It was just like a scene from
an Indiana Jones movie.'
coffin lid was given an estimated value of between £1,000 and £2,000 - but it
sold for £12,000 on Saturday. Capt Sarll's granddaugher Ali Watkins travelled
from her home in Devon to watch the sale at Willingham Auctioneers in
revealed her grandfather had painted its face - and said it needed restoring as
it had woodworm. She said: 'He was a great adventurer and travelled the globe.
But we don't know the exact history of how it came in his possession.
Sarll (left) was also a war correspondent, photographer and actor
didn't know what it was going to go for but it's a good price and the lady who
won the bid was very happy and she thought it was going to go for awful lot
more. It's going to go to a private museum and I will keep in touch.'
house also contained another historical relic - a vinyl record of the Eamonn
Andrews TV show, This Is Your Life. Ali says a picture of the sarcophagus was
featured in a book presented to Capt Sarll when he appeared on the show in
Sarll was also a war correspondent, photographer and actor. He was well-known
for his frock-coat, striped grey trousers, silk hat, patent leather boots,
monocle and spats. The
new owner of the coffin lid, who asked to remain anonymous, said it will go to
a private museum.