Cairo, Jan 2 (EFE).- Egypt has recovered 17 historic artifacts from the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences in the United States, including the famed ‘Green Coffin’ after it had been smuggled out of the country, officials said on Monday.
“In light of Egypt’s commitment to return its smuggled antiquities, MFA (ministry of foreign affairs) hosted a ceremony today on the occasion of handing over the ‘green sarcophagus’,” Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said.
“Our sincere thanks to the USA authorities for their cooperation in returning this precious piece,” the minister added.
Shoukry told reporters that the returned items dated from different periods of ancient Egyptian history and had been possible thanks to a deal between Cairo and Washington struck in 2016 and extended in 2021.
The minister said Egyptian authorities recovered more than 5,000 antiquities in 2021.
At Monday’s handover ceremony at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, which was also attended by US embassy representatives, Shoukry and the Minister for Tourism and Antiquities, Ahmed Issa, said that Egypt would spare no effort to recover all of its stolen antiquities that were looted illegally.
The officials said that in the last 10 years, the North African country has recovered 29,300 items — 5,300 in 2021 and 110 in 2022 — all of which dated back to different periods of Egyptian history.
They also highlighted how “precious” and “important” the green sarcophagus was.
Mostafa Waziri, Supreme Council of Antiquities chief, said the sarcophagus had belonged to a priest from the Late Period (664-332 BC) and that the lid alone weighed over 500 kilograms, which explains why thieves left its base behind.
The lid is 2.93 meters long and 0.95 meters wide “which indicates that there was another, smaller sarcophagus inside,” Waziri told reporters.
The coffin’s lid is made of carved wood and decorated with columns of hieroglyphic texts in gold and the portrait of the priest’s face is painted in emerald green.
The Manhattan District Attorney in September announced the return of the sarcophagus, valued at over $1 million, after he determined that the coffin was looted from an “archaeological site in Egypt and trafficked by the Dib-Simonian network, who smuggled the piece through Germany into the United States in 2008.” EFE