Tuesday, February 23, 2010

US to return 21st Dynasty sarcophagus to Egypt

Discovery News (Rossella Lorenzi)

U.S. authorities will return a beautifully painted 3,000-year-old coffin to Egypt, Egyptian Culture Minister Faruq Hosni said on Monday.

Decorated with colorful religious scenes, the ornamented coffin contains the remains of a man called Imesy.

Zahi Hawass, the secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) had said last year that the coffin likely belongs to pharaoh Ames of the 21st Dynasty, which ruled over Egypt from 1070-945 B.C.

The nearly 5-foot-long wooden coffin was confiscated by U.S. customs officials at Miami International Airport from a Spanish merchant in 2008.

The dealer did not possess the necessary documentation to prove ownership of the artifact.

ABC News

The coffin, described as one of the "most beautiful plastered and painted" pieces found in Egypt, was seized by customs officials upon its arrival at a Florida airport in October 2008, the ministry said in a statement.

An antiquities dealer named as Felix Cerera did not have ownership documents for it, prompting customs officials to suspect smuggling, the statement said.

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found the coffin had been smuggled out of Egypt in 1884 and had been exhibited in Madrid in 2007. Egypt requested its return in 2009.


US authorities will return to Egypt an ornately painted pharaonic coffin smuggled out of the country more than 125 years ago, Egyptian Culture Minister Faruq Hosni said on Monday.

The 3,000 year-old casket, which was painted with inscriptions to help its occupant in the afterlife, would be handed over to Egypt's antiquities chief Zahi Hawass next month, Hosni said in a statement.

Egypt had last year asked the United States to return the wooden coffin, which dates back to the 21st dynasty (1081-931 BC) and contains the remains of a man named Emus but about whom little else was known.

On Monday, Hawass said US Immigration and Customs had contacted him in 2008 about the coffin after confiscating it from a Spanish merchant who had shipped it to Florida for sale.

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