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Looted ancient sarcophagus returned to Egypt from US

CAIRO (AP) — An ancient wooden sarcophagus on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science has been returned to Egypt after U.S. officials determined it had been looted years ago, Egyptian officials said Monday. rice field.

The repatriation is part of the Egyptian government’s efforts to stop trafficking in stolen antiquities. In 2021, Cairo authorities successfully returned to Egypt 5,300 of her artifacts stolen from around the world.

Mostafa Waziri, senior official of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the sarcophagus dates from the Late Dynasty period of ancient Egypt. This period spanned from 664 BC to the expedition of Alexander the Great in 332 BC, the last of the pharaonic rulers.

The roughly 3-meter (9.5-foot) high sarcophagus, with its brightly painted top, may have belonged to an ancient monk named Ankenmat, although some of the inscriptions have been erased, Waziri said. Stated.

It was symbolically handed over by Daniel Rubinstein, the US acting ambassador to Egypt, at a ceremony in Cairo on Monday.

The handover came more than three months after the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office determined the sarcophagus had been looted from the Abu Saar Necropolis, north of Cairo. According to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, it was smuggled into the United States via Germany in 2008.

“This magnificent coffin was bought and sold by an organized network that has looted countless antiques from the area,” Bragg said at the time. “We are delighted to have this object returned to Egypt, where it rightfully belongs.”

Bragg said the same network smuggled a gilded coffin out of Egypt that was on display at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Met purchased the piece for around $4 million in 2017 from his art dealer in Paris. It was returned to Egypt in 2019.