New York museum returns Egyptian gold coffin looted by art thieves

A gilded coffin looted by art thieves in the wake of the Arab Spring and unwittingly purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has been returned to the Egyptian authorities.

The sarcophagus dates back to the first century BC and once held the mummy of Nedjemankh, a priest of the ram god Heryshaf.

BBC reported that the highly ornamented coffin was bought by the museum for $4m (N1.4 bn) in 2017 and was the centrepiece of the Nedjemankh and His Gilded Coffin exhibition that opened the following year.

But in February the coffin was seized by a New York unit investigating the trafficking of antiquities.

“Thus far our investigation has determined that this coffin is just one of hundreds of antiquities stolen by the same multinational trafficking ring,” Cyrus Vance, Manhattan’s district attorney, is quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying at the ceremony to return the coffin.

After it was taken from Egypt’s Minya region amid the political upheaval of the revolution in 2011, it passed through Dubai and Germany and on to France.

There a Paris art dealer, whose identity was not revealed, sold the 6ft (1.8m) artefact to the Met, the AFP news agency reports. Egypt’s foreign minister attended the ceremony in New York where investigators revealed the “glaring inconsistencies”

“This is not only for Egyptians but this is for our common human heritage and our sense that we all share in the values and we all are one of the same international family,” Reuters quotes Sameh Shoukry as saying.

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