CAIRO – Egypt has asked U.S. authorities to return a 3,000 year old wood coffin from the Pharaonic Era, which was confiscated by U.S. customs officials.
A statement issued by the Supreme Council for Antiquities of Egypt on Mar. 22 said that the coffin was stolen from Egypt in 1884. It dates back to the 21st pharaonic dynasty, which ruled Egypt from 1081 to 931 B.C.
The Council’s statement noted that the coffin is inscribed with religious texts to help the deceased, a person named Ames, on his journey to the other world.
According to Dr Zahi Hawass, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Antiquities of Egypt, “The painted wood coffin was illegally taken out of Egypt in 1884. We were able to prove that it left the country in violation of laws that were in place at that time.”
He added, “The Supreme Council for Antiquities provided U.S. authorities with technical and legal evidence proving Egypt’s ownership of this coffin and its illegal removal from the country.” Egypt will soon send a formal request for its repatriation to Miami, Florida, where the coffin is located. A U.S. citizen bought the coffin from a Spanish dealer and shipped it to the U.S., but customs officials in Miami confiscated it on Feb. 26 because the person lacked documents establishing that he had legal ownership of it, which forced the buyer to relinquish his claim to the coffin.
Hawass explained that, “The coffin is made of coloured wood and is carved into a human shape. It is 148 cm long, 47 cm wide and 45 cm high. It belonged to a person named Ames, from the 21st dynasty (1081-929 BCE), from the region of Thebes.”
Since 2002, Egyptian authorities have succeeded in repatriating around 5,000 stolen or illegally smuggled artefacts.
[Al-Iqtisadiya Al-Saudiya newspaper, Reuters]