Egypt announced on Sunday retrieving a gilded coffin, that was smuggled from Egypt in 2011, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York.
The coffin belongs to Nedjemankh, who was the priest of the ram-god Heryshef, dubbed the ruler of the riverbank.
Metropolitan Museum bought the coffin from someone who showed them an antiquities trading licence in 1971, when relics trade was authorised.
The relics trade was prohibited after issuing the Antiquities Protection Law in 1983.
The museum stated that the seller’s licence was found fake, prompting it to investigate the case that lasted for 20 months during which Egypt has proven its ownership of the coffin. Based on the discovered evidence, the Manhattan District Attorney proved Egypt’s ownership of the coffin and stressed on the importance of returning it.
The museum’s president and CEO, Daniel Weiss, told The New York Times, “After we learned that the museum was a victim of fraud and unwittingly participated in the illegal trade of antiquities, we worked with the District Attorney’s office for its return to Egypt. The nation of Egypt has been a strong partner of the museum’s for over a century.”
Supervisor General of Antiquities Ministry’s Antiquities Repatriation Department, Shaaban Abdel Gawad, told local media outlet, Al-Ahram Online, that “the museum’s president also sent on Saturday the museum’s apologies to the Minister of Antiquities, Khaled El-Enany, and to Egyptians.”
Once it returns home, the coffin is to be shortly displayed at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, before it will be relocated later to the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) to be one of the 50,000 showcased relics.
The coffin was not the only antiquity to be smuggled from the country in 2011.
In 2016, Egypt retrieved two ancient tombs from Israel that date to the Greco-Roman era. The tombs were discovered to be smuggled from Egypt during the unrest that followed the 25th January 2011 Revolution.
Egyptian authorities received the tombs after they were informed about them by Israeli authorities, that found them in a public auction in Jerusalem. The tombs were set to be displayed at the Egyptian Museum after undergoing restoration, as Abdel Gawad told local media outlets at the time.
Abdel Gawad previously stated that in the last two years, Egypt has retrieved over 1,000 smuggled artefacts, from several countries in the past two years, including 586 items that were returned in 2017.