CAIRO – 2 November 2020: Africa has suffered greatly from Western colonialism. During this period, colonialism stole the past of these nations and their future.
The past is represented by the antiquities that all of a sudden became adorning the world’s museums. How did they seize them and how were they smuggled out of their native lands?
Of course, it is not possible to count everything that happened in Africa of antiquities theft crimes, but we will present examples of what happened in Egypt throughout its history.
Five infamous methods of antiquities theft were as follows:
Egypt lost many antiquities due to theft. How many times were we surprised that Egyptian treasures are sold in international auctions? We do not know how it got out of the country. Perhaps the bust of Tutankhamun is one of the most prominent of these pieces.
We all remember how the auction house that offered the statue for sale rejected Egyptian pleas to stop selling the statue.
After the French scientist Champollion deciphered the Rosetta Stone in 1822, the whole world became obsessed with Egyptology. International universities have established departments for Egyptology.
As a result, scientific missions were formed and came to Egypt, whose role was to uncover these antiquities. These missions obtained a piece of the duplicated artifacts if they were discovered.
In a certain period of time ancient Egyptian antiquities were traded legally as there was no law regulating or prohibiting its sales. That remained until the Antiquities Law appeared at the beginning of the seventies of the twentieth century.
During that time thousands of Egyptian artifacts were transported out of Egypt.
Here, the great archaeologist Zahi Hawass says, “The story began on January 20, 1913, when a meeting was held between Ludwig Borchardt and the director of the Middle Egypt Antiquities Inspection, Gustav Lefevre, to discuss the division of archaeological discoveries found in 1912 between Germany and Egypt."
The division of the discoveries took place in accordance with the antiquities law at the time, "equal shares" between Egypt and the excavation mission of the Eastern German Company through a joint committee headed by the representative of the Antiquities Authority of the Egyptian government.
Hawass added that during that time Lefevre said that the statue is made of gypsum, but it was truly made of fine limestone. Egyptian law at that time prohibited transferring any piece made of limestone outside the country, according to Hawass.
Hawass further pointed out that lying about the true material of the head statue was not the only trick. He explained that Borchardt had prepared the findings in two separate boxes and presented them to Lefevre along with two lists containing images of the antiquities each box contained.
One of the boxes contained the head statue of Nefertiti, while the other included a color painting of Akhenaten and his family, which depicts the royal couple Akhenaten and Nefertiti with three of his children.
According to Hawass, Borchardt knew that the painting was one of Lefevre's beloved antiquities, hence Lefevre chose the list containing the painting of Akhenaten and his family, and it was later transferred to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
After Lefevre signed the division, this was approved by Gaston Maspero, the director of the Antiquities Service at the time, and then shipped directly to Berlin. The statue arrived in Germany in 1913.
Moreover, Hawass explained that the smuggled antiquities, including Nefertiti’s head statue, were presented to Henry James Simon, who was originally a Jewish horse dealer, who then worked in the antiquities trade and was the financier of Borchardt’s excavations in Tell el-Amarna.
This method came as a result of our mistakes, and perhaps the obelisk in London is the greatest evidence of these mistakes.
The era of Mohammad Ali Pasha witnessed the gifting of many of Egyptian monuments to the rulers of many countries in Europe.
The governor of Egypt at the time Mohammad Ali Pasha, ordered that an obelisk that was present in Alexandria to be gifted to the government of England in memory of Commander Nelson's victory over the French in the Abu Qir battle in the year 1831. It was transferred to London in 1877 AD.