Egypt retrieves 5,000 artefacts from US

29 Jan 2021

Five thousand Egyptian artifacts from an American museum collection have been returned to Egypt following years of negotiation.

The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced that the items, originally smuggled out of Egypt illegally, had finally arrived back in the country.

In a statement, the ministry said: “A large collection of Egyptian artifacts which was possessed by the Museum of the Bible in Washington has arrived back to Cairo Airport.”

Shaaban Abdel Gawad, general supervisor of the retrieved antiquities department, said the ministry had succeeded in repatriating the items following years of tough talks with US authorities that began in 2016.

He pointed out that the collection included nearly 5,000 manuscripts and papyruses containing Coptic language texts in hieratic and demotic calligraphy, in addition to manuscripts of Christian religious prayers written in both Arabic and Coptic or Arabic only.

The collection also included a number of cartonnage funerary masks, parts of coffins, heads of stone statues, and a group of portraits of the deceased.

The recovered pieces will be placed in the Coptic Museum in Egypt.

Hisham Al-Laithi, head of the central administration of the Antiquities Registration Center, said the artifacts had been taken out of the country as a result of illegal excavation.

American Ambassador to Egypt Jonathan Cohen said the US had been happy to hand over the collection.

“The US is pleased to return these artifacts to Egypt as part of the joint cooperation between the two countries in the field of protecting Egypt’s rich cultural heritage, and we look forward to continuing this cooperation in the future,” he added.

The Egyptian ministry statement said discussions on the return of the collection had begun with US authorities in 2016 and continued between officials from the ministry and Museum of the Bible for two years.

“Negotiations ended with the agreement that the museum returns back all the Egyptian artifacts it possesses to the Egyptian government,” it added.