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Looted sarcophagus kept in US museum returned to Egypt

After authorities found it had been stolen, an ancient sarcophagus has been returned to Egypt by a US museum.

The nearly three-metre tall, 9.5ft high sarcophagus was kept at Houston Museum of Natural Sciences, Texas until it was returned by Egyptian authorities as part of efforts to end the trafficking of stolen antiquities.

Cairo authorities managed to recover 5,300 artifacts stolen from all over the globe in 2021.

According to Mostafa Waziri of the Supreme Council of Antiquities the sarcophagus dates to the Late Dynastic Period of Ancient Egypt. This period was under Alexander the Great’s campaign and spanned 664 BC to 332 BC.

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Although some of the inscription has been lost, Waziri thinks the sarcophagus belonged to Ankhenmaat, an ancient priest.

Image Foreign minister Sameh Shoukry (centre right) and Mostafa Wazari

The US charge d’affaires in Egypt in Cairo, Daniel Rubinstein, symbolically gave the artifact over to the US at a ceremony in Cairo on Monday. This was three months after the Manhattan District attorney’s office found that the artifact had been stolen from Abu Sir Necropolis north of Cairo.

Alvin L Bragg, Manhattan District Attorney, stated that the coffin was being trafficked by a network that had looted many antiquities from the area.

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“We are happy that this object will return to Egypt, where it belongs.”

Image Mr Waziri looks at an old wooden sarcophagus in the handover ceremony

He said that the criminal network also smuggled a gilded coffin to New York in 2008 at the same time. It was purchased from a Parisian dealer for $4m (PS3.3m).

In 2019, the coffin was brought back to Egypt.

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