Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Eton College returns suspect antiquities to Egypt
Martin Bailey of the Art Newspaper reports that on the 27th April, Eton College returned a group of more than 450 antiquities to Egypt, because it suspects that many had probably been illegally exported. The objects in question had been donated to Eton in 2006, by the family of the late Ron Davey, a London-based Egyptologist. He in turn had received most of them as a bequest from his friend, Peter Webb, who died in 1992. The Webb-Davey donation comprised 454 items, including ushabti figurines, beads and amulets, textile fragments, potsherds, coins and other small objects. When the antiquities arrived at Eton, they were examined by Dr Nicholas Reeves, and he was concerned to find that much of the material had been acquired in Egypt during the period 1972-88, and there was no surviving documentary evidence that proper export procedures had been followed. The remaining Webb-Davey antiquities seem to have been purchased in good faith on the London market during the same period, but again, no information was available on how they had left Egypt. Eton College considered the matter, and decided against keeping the donation. After discussions with Mr Davey’s family, it was decided to relinquish the objects to Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, for the Cairo Museum. That Eton should be upholding the principles of fair play and decency need surprise nobody, I'd expect nothing less, but wouldn't it be a nice surprise though to find other collectors of no-questions-asked material following such an exemplary lead and taking the same attitude?