Twelve artefacts thought to have been smuggled to London following the 25 January Revolution are expected back in Egypt by the end of June, according to the Ministry of Antiquities.
In coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Antiquities secured an English court ruling in favour of the speedy return of the artefacts directly to Egypt. A ministry statement on Sunday said the return was occurring “without taking the routine procedures”.
Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim said the artefacts had been transferred to the Egyptian embassy in London. He added the ministry would not “give up” securing the return of Egyptian artefacts removed from the country illegally, to “preserve the right of Egypt in its heritage and artefacts”.
Ali Ahmed, director of the recovered antiquities department, said two were found on the websites of two London auction houses, Bonhams and Christies, and were set to go on sale. After examining the pieces their authenticity was confirmed, including one that had been registered in Luxor in 2000 by a team of German excavators. This particular item is an engraved red granite (22.8cm by 14.8cm) depicting a southern prisoner at the base of a statue of King Amenhotep III, according to the ministry.
Among other items recovered is the “head of a Cobra topped with a sun disk between the horns of a cow next to a lotus flower of coloured limestone dating to the era of the New Kingdom”. Also among the collection is “the bust of a man wearing a long wig” from the Middle Kingdom, the head of a limestone statue of a woman wearing a short wig from the New Kingdom and two limestone reliefs also from the New Kingdom era.
Ibrahim and the ministry have intensified efforts to prevent smuggling and the subsequent sale of artefacts abroad. Earlier this year the ministry launched efforts to establish a memorandum of understanding with the United States to restrict the import of Egyptian antiquities. A decision on the matter is yet to be announced.
In April the ministry foiled an attempt to smuggle Jewish antiquities used in religious practices from the northern port of Damietta, bound for Belgium.
Ninety ancient artefacts were recovered from a Jerusalem auction house in November after the ministry found 110 pieces advertised on the auctioneer’s website. The sellers were not able to produce ownership documents and Israeli authorities blocked the sale and ordered the return of 90 of the artefacts.
The Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square and other museums were looted during the January 2011 uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak.
Following the ouster of Mubarak’s successor, Mohamed Morsi, in July 2013 other museums were looted including the Mallawi Museum in Al-Minya. Many items are still unaccounted for.