Egypt announced Monday the recovery of 17 archaeological artifacts from the United States, including an “important green sarcophagus” dating to the late Pharaonic period, between 664 and 332 BC, which had been smuggled out of the country illegally.
“It’s about a unique and important moment (…) we recovered the green sarcophagus after years of working with the US authorities,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shokri said at a press conference after a delivery ceremony for the pieces.
Likewise, he stressed that the recovery of these pieces dating from different periods of Egyptian history has been possible thanks to a cooperation protocol signed by Cairo and Washington in 2016 and extended to 2021, the year in which -he assured- Egyptian authorities have recovered more than 5,000 pieces.
At the ceremony, held at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, in the presence of representatives of the US embassy, both Shokri and the Minister of Antiquities, Ahmed Isa, agreed that “Egypt will spare no effort to recover all its stolen antiquities ” or “taken out of the country illegally” through “collaboration with friendly countries”.
They also pointed out that only in the last 10 yearsthe North African country has a total of 29,300 pieces recovered, of which 5,300 in 2021 and 110 in 2022which date back to different periods of Egyptian history, thanks to the collaboration of Western and Arab “friendly” countries, such as the United Arab Emirates.
An ancient sarcophagus
They also highlighted how “precious” and “important” the “green sarcophagus” represents, without specifying details, although the archaeologist and president of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, attributed that name to the “green face painted on the lid of the sarcophagus.” ”.
The sarcophagus dates back to the late dynastic period of ancient Egypt, an era that spanned the last of the pharaonic rulers from 664 BC. C. until the campaign of Alexander the Great in 332 a.
“This is the lid of the sarcophagus of what appears to be a priest from the late pharaonic period (…) the lid alone weighs more than 500 kilogramsso the thieves apparently stole it without the base because of the weight it could have,” Waziri said at the press conference.
He explained that the lid is 2.94 meters long and 0.95 meters wide, “which indicates that there was another smaller sarcophagus inside”, and noted that “it is called that way because of the green color of the face paint that appears on the cover.
“The recovery of this sarcophagus is proof of the interest of the Egyptian State in recovering its archaeological pieces that were taken out of the country illegally for being an integral part of its invaluable cultural heritage,” stressed the head of Egyptian diplomacy.
The handover came more than three months after the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office determined the sarcophagus was looted from the Abu Sir Necropolis north of Cairo. It was smuggled through Germany into the United States in 2008according to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg.
“This impressive coffin was trafficked by a well-organized network that has looted countless antiquities from the region,” Bragg said at the time. “We are pleased that this object is being returned to Egypt, where it rightfully belongs.”
Bragg said the same ring had smuggled a golden 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 about $4 million. It was returned to Egypt in 2019.
(with information from EFE and AP)
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