by Nevine El-Aref , Monday 12 Mar 2012
After a thirteen year absence, nine ancient Egyptian limestone reliefs were returned to their original place in the Saqqara necropolis.
The story of the objects goes back to 1999, when the nine limestone reliefs were reported missing from their original location on the walls of the sixth dynasty tomb of a nobleman called Imep-Hor, located in Kom Al-Khamsin area in Saqqara, 15 miles south of the Giza plateau.
The reliefs are engraved with hieroglyphic texts showing different names of the tomb’s owner and religious chapters from the Book of the Dead.
Ahmed Mostafa, former head of the return antiquities department as the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA), told Ahram Online that one of these reliefs was found three years ago on the list of a well known auction house in Spain. The Ministry, which was then called the Supreme Council of Antiquities, asked the Spanish government to stop the auction as the relief was an Egyptian possession that has been stolen and illegally smuggled out of the country.
A year later, the eight other reliefs were taken from the possession of an antiquities dealer in Barcelona. An Egyptian archaeological committee travelled to Spain to inspect the items and showed all the required documents to prove Egyptian ownership of the artefacts.
Legal procedures and diplomatic negotiations took place between both the Spanish and Egyptian governments over the last three years, and yesterday Egypt’s embassy in Spain received a letter from the Spanish government that the latter agreed to hand over the requested items to Egypt.
In a statement, Egypt’s Ambassador to Spain, Ayman Zaineddin, praised the cooperation shown by the Spanish during the discussions and Madrid's desire to follow the proper legal process to protect Egyptian rights. He said that “Spain's positive response embodies the friendly relations between the two countries.”