Saturday 24 May 2014

Looted Objects from Sakkara Reported in Budapest and "France"

Fine Arts Museum Budapest -
one of the largest Egyptological
collections in central Europe
The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities reports that it has managed to track five looted ancient Egyptian Old Kingdom artefacts coming from the site of Tabit Al Geish (Tabbet el-Gech/ Tabbet al-Guesh/ Tabit Al Geyoush) in south Sakkara.  The relics reportedly come from the entrance of a single tomb, that of a priest "Haw Nefer" who officiated at the funerary temple of King Pepi I of the VI Dynasty. This tomb had been discovered with four others in 2001 by an archaeological team from the French Institute for Oriental Antiquities in Cairo led by Vassil Dobrev (here is a superb photo of the work in progress, here too, and also here).

Three of the allegedly smuggled artefacts had been bought, apparently recently, by the Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum) in Budapest in  Hungary. They had been sold by an (unnamed) auction house which claimed they had a collecting history going back to 1974. The sale took place in 2013, the auction house was in London, and the deal came out at about 100 million Hungarian forints paid out of the public purse. (Al-Ahram says "Ibrahim told Ahram Online that according to the documents of the Fine Arts Museum in Budapest, the three objects were bought by the museum in 2002 from an auction house"). If, however they are from this tomb, see below, this collecting history must be false since there was no excavation work on the site until the French mission started an organised excavation in 2001

Interestingly, although they are inscribed for Hau, the Budapest photos ( by Csanád Szesztay  here, pinched and unsourced by Luxor Times and given their logo) do not match the photos of the tomb lintel as excavated. Why? What is going on? In any case, the Budapest Museum apparently did not really do very much due diligence, they identified the tomb from which it originated, and wrote:
"it can also be concluded that the piece was unearthed in a cemetery of Memphis called Saqqara. The fragment turned up and was stored in a number of European collections before it made its way to Budapest, and hope was scarce to ever identify its place of origin".
But then, reading up about the tomb would quickly have shown that it was unknown before 2000. The other two objects from the tomb were found at an (unnamed) auction house in France. The Ministry is now trying to get Hungary and France to return these items.


' ', Luxor Times Blog May 24th 2014.

Dr. Liptay Éva, 'Hau(nefer), the lector priestFragments of an ancient Egyptian reliefThe Egyptian Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts has acquired a relief fragment of a tomb dating back to ancient Egypt’s Old Kingdom period'. Magyarmuzeumok, 2014-02-18

 Nevine El-Aref , 'Five stolen Egyptian artefacts located in Europe The objects come from illegal excavations of a temple (sic) from c.2300 BC' Al-Ahram Saturday 24 May 2014

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