Friday 3 April 2009

Egypt Requests Coffin’s Return


This "ornately decorated coffin was seized by customs officials in Miami last month, when an American, who bought it from a dealer in Spain, was unable to provide sufficient paperwork to prove ownership. The council has sent documents to authorities in Miami proving that the coffin was taken out of Egypt illegally in 1884" (Steven McElroy, 'Egypt requests Coffin's return', New York Times 22nd march 2009). Egypt has now asked for it back.

This is another of those frustrating reports originating from Egyptian press releases where nobody is too sure what is going on. In some reports the place it was taken from is named as Thebes. It is one of the yellow painted ones that wsa typical of the region in the third Intermediate Period. Zahi Hawass is quoted in several newspapers as saying the wooden coffin "belonged to Pharaoh Ames of the 21st Dynasty, which ruled from 1081 B.C. to 931 B.C." (Egypt News). But there was no pharoah of that name in the 21st dynasty (Smendes, Amenemisu, Pinodjem I, Amenemope, Osorkon I, Siamun, Pinodjem II) and those tombs of these rulers that have been recovered were in Tanis (and had better finished and more ornate coffins). In any case, if its a pharoah - where is the ureus?

I suspect something has been lost in translation here. At the same time there was the rule of the Priests of Amun in Thebes, but they are conventionally called the 22nd dynasty (though the dates - conventionally 1080 to c. 943 BC - fit better the range given in the news reports). But again I cannot find mention of an Amun priest called Ames. The name is not mentioned as being one of those from the Bab el-Gasus cache of priests' mummies (nice online summary here) - which was in any case discovered in 1891 and not 1884, or in the published lists of the high priests of Amun in this period.

Finally - on what grounds was the removal "illegal" in 1884? As we all know, this was the time we all know the Egyptian authorities were giving away objects from the discoveries at Luxor (and objects from Bab el-gasus are now widely scattered because of this). All very odd. I wonder if we will be told more ?

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