Thursday 26 September 2013

Sale of ancient Egyptian Artefacts Reportedly Halted in Jerusalem

Nevine El-Aref ,'Sale of ancient Egyptian artefacts halted in Jerusalem', Al Ahram, Wednesday 25 Sep 2013
On Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs upon the request of the MSA, asked the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take all required procedures in collaboration with the Egyptian embassy in Jerusalem to stop the sale of 126 ancient Egyptian artefacts. These objects were put on sale in two auction halls, Eweda and Bidoon, in Jerusalem [...] Eweda is currently exhibiting 110 artefacts while Bidoon is displaying 16 others. The stolen objects include a collection of ancient Egyptian clay vessels, vases, ushabti figurines and stelae.
Ali Ahmed, director-general of the Repatriation of Antiquities Department in the MSA, explains that the objects in question were traced through a routine web review of all international auction halls carried out by the department periodically.
All of them? So how come several dozen have items on sale exactly the same, with even less visible collecting histories and Ali Ahmed did not question them? Can we assume, since the Egyptians say "all international auction halls" and they've only questioned these two, that all the rest are deemed entirely kosher by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities? Or did they really only kick up a fuss about the ones in Israel because they are in Israel?

Here's the current offering of eighteen items by on Via Dolorosa Street which is a shop, not an auction house. Certainly some of them have reported collecting histories going back several decades and export licence numbers quoted. Are these the ones the Egyptians say are "stolen"? Certainly when Google made its cache on 19th September, exactly the same objects were on display on page 1, BUT a bronze Sekhmet is missing that was on the cache, made the same day, of page two. Not all these antiquities are 'as advertised' I would say. I really don't like the look of the stela-not-a-stela, but could be wrong.

The other one they mention is presumably  Aweidah Gallery  also on Via Dolorosa Street and which is also a shop, not an auction house. Aweidah also trades through Trocadero. ("Each piece is a unique legacy from the past. When we hold an artifact created during the lifetime of Alexander, Hadrian or Christ, we become in some small way a part of that era. Brave men have risked their lives for these legendary items, extolled in the Bible, collected by Kings, stolen by scoundrels, now they are within your reach because you are in Aweidah Gallery [...]").

Ancient art at Aweidah gallery, Old city Jerusalem (You Tube film
Ts Der·).

Aweidah also are still offering 62 items (are these the ones left after the others withdrawn?). Aweida's Egyptian antiquities cached July 2013 page looks quite different from the current one, but it is not clear why. Unlike the other website, these items have few details of previous collecting history, and - to be honest, to my eye not all of the ones on display are 'as advertised'. 

So what is really going on here? 

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