Monday, December 9, 2013

Priceless missing statuette of Tutankhamun's sister found

Statuette of ancient Pharoah's sister which went missing in looting during riots protesting overthrow on ex-president Morsi found in three pieces

By Richard Spencer, Cairo

A priceless statuette of the sister of the Pharaoh Tutanhkhamun which went missing during mass looting of a museum in central Egypt in the summer has been found, the antiquities ministry said on Sunday.

The statuette had been broken into three pieces, said Monica Hanna, an archaeologist who has led a campaign to protect Egypt's historical sites. However, the breaks appeared to be along the lines of previous restoration work and it seemed likely it could be put back together, she said.

The statuette was the highlight of the museum in the city of Mallawi, near the archaeological remains of the new capital established by Tutankhamun's father Akhenaten in the 14th Century BC.

Egyptian police and Unesco put out an alert through Interpol and to international museums and dealers after the museum was smashed and looted during Islamist riots protesting the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohammed Morsi, in August.

More than 1,000 items went missing, but some experts believed that the protests were used as cover by professional thieves of Pharaonic exhibits to target the statuette, a small limestone figure of the princess holding an offering.

A statement by the ministry gave few details of how the statuette came to be recovered, saying that police had been "guided" to its hiding place in Cairo by a group of "accused". However, it said that of the more than 1,000 exhibits originally stolen, 800 had now been recovered or returned.

In an interview with The Telegraph last month, the police officer leading the investigation, Col Abdulsamie Farghali, said that some of the objects retrieved had been found through "negotiations" with powerful local families.

A number of clans of antiquities smugglers are known to operate in the area, and have long-established connections to the international black market in such objects. Because of their distinctive style, and connection to Tutankhamen, relics of the era of Akhenaten fetch the highest prices.

Miss Hanna said: "I'm very glad that they finally found it."


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