Fayum Mummy Portrait (Courtesy: Manhattan District Attorney)
Manhattan DA Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. announced this month the return of more than a dozen antiquities worth more than $4 million (EGP 76 million) back to Egypt.
16 antiquities were given back to Egypt officials during a repatriation ceremony. Egypt’s Consul General Howaida Essam Mohamed and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations New York Acting Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel attended the ceremony on September 8, 2022.
Among the most notable artifacts are five illustrative linen fragments that refer to biblical beliefs, the upper part of a painted coffin, bronze statue of a famed ancient Egyptian musician Kemes, a limestone plaque with hieroglyphic engravings and a Roman-era portrait of a lady in Fayoum.
Both historically and culturally priceless, their monetary value shows why artifact collecting was widespread.
The investigation resulted in a first of its kind lifetime ban on having antiquities. District Attorney Bragg said, “Today’s repatriation shows the breadth and prevalence of antiquities trafficking networks, but thanks to the work of our dedicated prosecutors and analysts, we have made tremendous progress in cracking down on this illegal activity”.
“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 Steinhardt, an American billionaire. Six were taken from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art; is not the first time historical Egyptian artifacts were repatriated from the museum. The MMA currently hosts about 26,000 Egyptian items. In June of this year, five other ancient Egyptian objects were found in the museum and returned to Egypt and in 2019, a golden coffin taken out of Egypt during the 2011 Revolution was found in the museum.
Egypt continues repatriation efforts in combination with the country’s growing museum networks. The government is finishing construction on the Grand Egyptian Museum – Egypt’s largest museum – at the Giza Pyramids complex.