US returns looted 2700-year-old sarcophagus to Egypt

Part of an effort by Egypt to recover stolen antiquities, the country received on Monday (2) one of the largest wooden sarcophagi ever discovered throughout history. The part, smuggled out of the country, was in the United States.

According to the Egyptian chancellor, Sameh Shoukry, and the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, the sarcophagus dates from the end of the pharaonic period, around 2,700 years ago.

The piece, 2.94 meters long, 90 centimeters wide and with the upper part painted in green, was exhibited at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Houston, in the US state of Texas.

Over the past decade, Cairo has managed to recover more than 29,000 pieces of stolen antiquity. The country has also announced important discoveries over the last few months, such as that of 250 sarcophagi and 150 bronze statues in the Saqqara necropolis.

In the past two years, more than 300 sarcophagi have been unveiled in the country, some of the items over 3,000 years old. The expectation of the local government is that the discoveries will reactivate the tourism sector, affected during the Covid pandemic. The sector employs at least 2 million people and generates more than 10% of Egypt’s GDP.

Monday’s handover of the sarcophagus came more than three months after the Manhattan district attorney’s office clarified that the object was looted from Abu Sir Necropolis, in the northern part of the capital Cairo, and smuggled into the United States from Germany in 2008, according to reports. from the Associated Press news agency.

“This stunning sarcophagus was trafficked by a well-organized network that looted countless antiquities from the region,” said prosecutor Alvin L. Bragg at the time. “We are pleased that the object this object has been returned to Egypt, where it belongs.”

Bragg said the same network had smuggled a coffin out of Egypt that was on display at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The Met bought the piece from a Paris art dealer in 2017 for around $4 million, and it was returned to Egypt in 2019.

Other countries in Africa, these in the sub-Saharan portion, observe movements similar to those of Egypt. In recent years, after lengthy diplomatic negotiations, they have received back pieces stolen from their territories by European colonizers.

In December, Germany returned to Nigeria more than 20 objects removed from the country’s territory at the time of British colonization.