he Houston Museum of Natural Science in the U.S. has handed over a looted ancient Egyptian sarcophagus, widely known as the “Green Coffin”, to its home country, Egypt.
The wooden sarcophagus dates back to the late Dynastic Period (from 664BC to 332BC)
The sarcophagus was returned by U.S. diplomats during a Sunday ceremony attended by Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry and the North African country’s Tourism and Antiquities Minister, Ahmed Issa.
The Green Coffin, which is about 2.9 metres long, was said to belong to an ancient priest named Ankhenmaat.
In September 2022, Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg said that the sarcophagus was illegally looted from Egypt by a multinational network of antiquities smugglers, who trafficked it into the U.S. through Germany in 2008.
He said a collector later loaned the coffin, which was originally looted from the Abu Sir necropolis in north Egypt, to the Houston Museum of Natural Science in 2013.
Egypt’s MFA Spokesman, Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a statement “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted today the ceremony of handing over the ‘Green Coffin’ to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities after it was recovered from the U.S.
“Sincere thanks to the American authorities for their cooperation in preserving the cultural and civilizational heritage of humanity.”
The ministry highlighted that Egypt was one of the first countries to ratify The Hague Convention and the UNESCO Convention of 1970 that prohibits and prevent the illicit trafficking of cultural property.
They pointed out that Egypt was keen on the existence of bilateral agreements with other countries to protect cultural heritage and antiquities.
They said the agreements contributes to the procedures for recovering antiquities with many countries.
However, Antiquities Minister Issa said, “the return of the sarcophagus showed Egypt’s strenuous efforts to recover smuggled artifacts.”
At the handing over ceremony in Cairo, a U.S. diplomat described the return of the Egyptian sarcophagus as being “emblematic” of a long history of co-operation between Washington and Cairo on “antiquities protection and cultural heritage preservation.”
Issa noted that Egypt has succeeded in recovering 29,300 artifacts from several foreign and Arab countries in recent years, including from New Zealand, the U.S., France and Israel.
In 2020, the U.S. repatriated the “Gold Coffin”, while in 2019, the Stele of Pa-di-Sena, which is from the Late Dynastic Period, was handed over by Washington to the African country.
In 2021, Israel has returned to Egypt more than 95 artifacts that were either smuggled into the country or were displayed for sale in Jerusalem. (Sputnik/NAN)