Wednesday, 4 December 2013

France Returns Looted Artefacts to Egypt


France has returned five artifacts to Egypt that were smuggled out of the country sometime after 2011. All five items were taken from a storage space used by French archaeologists.  “The team in charge of monitoring sales of artefacts identified five pieces dating from the Ptolemaic dynasty on Internet websites, two which were being auctioned in the city of Toulouse,” said Ali Ahmed of Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities. Three of the objects are the head, torso, and arms of a glass statue.
 AFP:  'France returns five ancient artifacts to Egypt',  4 December 2013

UPDATE 24th Dec 2013:
 Three weeks later the Art Newspaper gives a somewhat different version. It starts off in a similar manner, stating that five antiquities looted from archaeological storerooms in Egypt and then removed from Egypt after the Arab Spring uprising in 2011 have been spotted being offered for sale online.

“Egyptian officials in charge of monitoring antiquities sales abroad spotted five Ptolemaic dynasty objects [323BC-30BC] for sale online, including two that were posted by a Toulouse-based auction house,” Ali Ahmed, an official at the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry, told the French newspaper Le Figaro. A head, torso and arm, which were part of a glass sculpture of a man, were among the stolen items. All of the antiquities were taken from a storage area used by French archaeologists working in Egypt.
The objects have been returned by the French government to the Egyptian authorities. The site, storage building and French mission are not named, but it is a worrying coincidence that the objects were being offered in France and it was a French mission that had access to the stores. It is also a bit of a problem that they were spotted by outside monitors and not by French ones. Before jumping to conclusions, let us note however the actual wording here: "taken from a storage area used by French archaeologists working in Egypt" - used by perhaps alongside archaeologists of many other nationalities. Some more information would be appreciated. Note that the dealer offering stolen items is not named either, which antiquity-handling auction houses are based in Toulouse?

 Ali Ahmed is head of the Antiquities Repatriation Department at the MSA. This "head, torso and arm" of a "glass" statue, it's not a Late Period shabti, is it? Is this the same story as one I covered earlier (here) which involved Frenchmen and upper parts of a frit statuette?  Is this cult-prop-feelgood-story rather more intended as a bit of foreigner-bashing rather than archaeological news?

 Gareth Harris, 'French officials return Egyptian antiquities looted after Arab Spring', The Art Newspaper 24 December 2013

AFP: 'France returns five ancient artifacts to Egypt',  4 December 2013:

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