Al-Ahram Weekly Online   29 May - 4 June 2008
Issue No. 899
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Safe and coming home

A 26th-dynasty limestone relief and a 19th-Dynasty ushabti (spirit model) figurine are the latest objects to be retrieved from abroad, Nevine El-Aref reports

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The two ancient Egyptian objects were saved for the nation when the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) succeeded in halting their sale in London and Amsterdam respectively as part of its campaign to stamp out the trade in illegally-smuggled artefacts.

The first object, which was listed for sale at Bonham's auction hall in London, is an inscribed limestone relief that was chopped off the tomb wall of the 26th-Dynasty nobleman Mutirdis. The tomb was discovered in 1969 at Assassif on Luxor's west bank by German Egyptologist Jan Assman, and the fragment was apparently still in its original place when the tomb was restored between 1973 and 1974. A photograph of the inscription still in situ was published in 1977 in Das Grab der Mutirdis. Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the SCA, said the relief consisted of two parts: the upper one bore hieroglyphic text engraved in six columns and a cartouche of a 26th-Dynasty queen, Nocratice, who lived in the seventh BC, as well as the various titles and names of the tomb's owner. The lower part, which is still in the tomb, features the tomb's owner with a long wig in a position of worship.

The relief appeared in Bonham's sale catalogue two weeks ago, and Hawass immediately wrote to the auction house requesting that the sale be stopped as the relief had been stolen and smuggled out of Egypt.

In the second case, a green 19th-Dynasty ushabti figure of a woman named Hener was removed from sale by auction with the help of Egypt's ambassador to Holland. The statuette was stolen from a Saqqara storehouse and is now at the Leiden Museum waiting to be brought back to Egypt following an Amsterdam court verdict.

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