The retrieved coffin - Facebook
CAIRO – 17 February 2019: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced that it will return a valuable artifact to Egypt after discovering that it was stolen from the country in 2011.
The prized artifact is the gilded Coffin of Nedjemankh who was a high-ranking priest of the ram-god Heryshef in the first century BC.
Met museum bought the stolen artifact from a Parisian art dealer in 2017. The artifact has been displayed in the museum since then.
Met museum further explained that Egypt gave the Manhattan District attorney a valid proof of its ownership of the artifact and that the export license of the trader was forged.
Investigators declared that the art dealer provided Met with fraudulent documents, such as a forged 1971 Egyptian export license.
Shaaban Abdel Gawad, supervisor general of Egypt’s Antiquities Repatriation Department, announced that investigations performed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office took 20 months.
Before the issuance of Antiquities Protection Law No 117 of 1983, the Egyptian law allowed the export of some artifacts.
The Manhattan District attorney assured Egypt’s ownership of the coffin and said that it should be returned to Egypt. Upon its arrival in Egypt, the coffin will be displayed temporarily at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square. Later, it will be transferred to the Grand Egyptian Museum to be displayed permanently after its official opening in 2020.
The coffin is engraved in wood and covered with a golden layer carved for Nedjemankh. The exquisitely decorated surface includes scenes and texts in thick gesso relief that were meant to protect and guide Nedjemankh on his journey from death to everlasting life.
“After we learned that the museum was a victim of fraud and unwittingly participated in the illegal trade of antiquities, we worked with the DA’s office to return the artifact to Egypt. Egypt has been a strong partner of the museum for over a century,” Met's president and CEO, Daniel Weiss, told The New York Times.
Abdel Gawadadded that Weiss sent on Saturday the museum’s apologies to Minister of Antiquities KhaledAnany, and to the Egyptians.
Anany thanked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Egyptian security authorities, as well as members of the National Committee for Antiquities Repatriation for their great efforts in recovering the coffin; he also thankedthe Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Metropolitan Museum for their much appreciated cooperation.