Egypt struggles to halt sale of artifacts at Dutch auction house
CAIRO: CAIRO: Cairo is in a battle to stop the sale of a set of ancient Egyptian artifacts up for sale in an auction houses in Maastricht, Netherlands, scheduled for March 11-20, the Ministry of Antiquities announced Wednesday.
The ministry instructed the Egyptian embassy in the Netherlands to contact the Tefaf auction house and ask for the suspension of the sale until the legitimacy of the artifacts in question is proven, said Antiquities Ministry Mamdouh al-Damaty.
Photos of the artifacts were sent to all museums, archaeological sites and antiquities storerooms across the country to check if those pieces were stolen or taken during illegal excavations so as to take the necessary measures to repatriate them, said Damaty.
The auction house in Netherlands has provided photos of some of the artifacts including an 18th Dynasty (1580 B.C.-1390 B.C.) Ushabti (a funerary figurine usually placed in ancient Egyptian tombs to act as a servant or minion for the deceased.) The figurine bears the name of Sedjem-ash Hesymeref a worker whose tomb was found at Deir al Madina in the west bank of Luxor, according to the website.
The auction house claims the acquisition of the artifacts was legal and provided its provenance (document that traces an artifact’s chain of ownership back to its excavation.) The artifact was part of the private collection of Omar Sultan Pacha (1806-1871,) according to the website.
In case of proving that the archaeological objects were illegally smuggled outside Egypt, legal procedures to repatriate them will start immediately, Damaty said.
Egypt’s political turmoil since the January 25 Revolution in 2011 and its consequent security lapse have left the country’s cultural heritage vulnerable to looting.
During the past four years, Egypt has recovered more than 1,600 artifacts and is currently working on other cases in many European countries, Ahmed said.