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USA Returns 16 “Priceless” Stolen Ancient Artifacts To Egypt

September 10, 2022
Image Credit: Al Jazeera

Egypt is receiving 16 stolen antiquities from the United States following a formal repatriation ceremony between the two countries in New York on 8 September.

Among the most notable artifacts are the upper part of a painted coffin, a limestone plaque with hieroglyphic engravings, five illustrative linen fragments that allude to biblical beliefs, a bronze statue of a famed ancient Egyptian musician known as Kemes, and a Roman-era portrait of a lady in Fayoum.

“These are priceless pieces of history and culture. They were seized, pursuant into a wide-ranging investigation into illegal traffickers and looters,” announced Alvin Bragg, Manhattan’s District Attorney during the live repatriation ceremony.

While historically and culturally priceless, the 16 artifacts also hold a monetary value worth an estimated EGP 76 million (USD 4 million), further showcasing the costs of stolen Egyptian artifacts.

“It’s safe to say that we can open an entire museum solely based on the artifacts repatriated,” celebrated Howayda Abdel Rahman, Egypt’s Consul General in New York.

Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities further clarified the repatriation case in a social media press release, offering Egyptians an insight into what artifacts are returning to the homeland.

Nine of the sixteen artifacts were seized from Michael Steinhardt, an American billionaire and antiquities collector. Six were taken from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which houses approximately 26,000 Egyptian objects.

This is not the first time historical Egyptian artifacts were repatriated from the Metropolitan Museum. In June 2022, five other looted ancient Egyptian objects were found in the museum and returned to Egypt. In 2019, a golden coffin illegally trafficked out of Egypt during the 2011 Revolution was located in the museum.

The Tourism and Antiquities Ministry’s post also confirmed continuing investigations into stolen artifacts in France after news broke that the Louvre Museum’s former director smuggled five Egyptian artifacts into the museum’s collection.

Egypt’s continuing repatriation efforts come in tandem with the country’s expanding museum networks and historical displays, as the government gears up to finish construction works over the Grand Egyptian Museum – Egypt’s largest museum come its opening – at the Giza Pyramids complex.

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