December 3, 2010

Nineteen Egyptian artefacts to be returned by New York’s Metropolitan Museum

Posted at 2:10 pm in Similar cases

Further coverage of the Met’s decision to return various artefacts to Egypt. Although the artefacts are all relatively small, it is still an important decision & acknowledges the growing realisation by museums that holding onto disputed artefacts is becoming increasing untenable.


Met returning 19 King Tut objects to Egypt
By the CNN Wire Staff
November 10, 2010 8:24 p.m. EST

New York (CNN) — The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is returning to Egypt 19 small objects that were entombed for centuries with ancient Egypt’s “boy king,” officials announced Wednesday.

A small bronze dog and a sphinx bracelet-element were attributed with certainty to Tutankhamun’s splendid burial chamber, which was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922 in the Valley of Kings, the museum and the Supreme Council of Antiques of Egypt said.

Two Met curators extensively researched the items, which became part of the museum’s collection from the 1920s to the 1940s.

“These objects were never meant to have left Egypt, and therefore should rightfully belong to the Government of Egypt,” Met Director Thomas P. Campbell said in a joint statement with the Egyptian council.

Prior to the discovery of Tut’s tomb, the Egyptian government customarily allowed excavators to keep a portion of their prize. That was not to be the case after Carter’s discovery.

Still, items were taken. The Met acquired some of the 19 items from Carter’s estate, officials said. The museum has been proactive in returning items to Egypt.

The objects will be displayed in a Times Square King Tut exhibit until January 2011, then will be part of an Egyptian exhibit at the Met before being sent to Egypt in June 2011, the statement said. They eventually will be housed at the Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza, scheduled to open in 2012.

Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the antiquities council, has long campaigned for museums to return items to Egypt. He called the Met’s move a “wonderful gesture.”

In 2009, Egypt suspended ties with France’s Louvre museum because it held five ancient murals. The French government agreed to return them.

Hawass has unsuccessfully lobbied the British Museum to return the famed Rosetta Stone. He also wants a German museum to hand over a bust of Queen Nefertiti.

A message left for Hawass by CNN was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Tut ruled during the 18th Dynasty, from 1336 B.C. to 1327 B.C., according to the website Egyptology Online, and is believed to have died young. Forensic analysis of his mummy has put his age of death at about 17 to 19 years.

Middle East Online

First Published: 2010-11-10
New York’s Met museum to return King Tut relics
Met museum agrees to recognise Egypt’s right to 19 relics in its possession since early last century.
By Samer al-Atrush – CAIRO

Egypt and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art announced on Wednesday that objects in the museum that had been taken from the tomb of the famed pharaoh Tutankhamun would be sent back to Egypt.

The museum agreed to recognise Egypt’s right to 19 relics in its possession since early last century, the Met and the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt said in a joint statement.

The artefacts include a bronze figurine of a dog with a golden collar and a sphinx, part of a bracelet made of semi-precious lapis lazuli.

“Thanks to the generosity and ethical behaviour of the Met, these 19 objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun can now be reunited with the other treasures of the boy king,” Egyptian antiquities chief Zaki Hawass said.

“For many years the museum, and especially the Egyptian art department, has been a strong partner in our ongoing efforts to repatriate illegally exported antiquities,” he said, adding that their research had helped Egypt recover a number of important objects.

Met director Thomas Campbell said the Egyptian art department “produced detailed evidence leading us to conclude without doubt that 19 objects, which entered the Met’s collection over the period of the 1920s to 1940s, originated in Tutankhamun’s tomb.”

“Because of precise legislation relating to that excavation, these objects were never meant to have left Egypt, and therefore should rightfully belong to the government of Egypt,” he added.

Unlike other archaeological discoveries at the time, some of which the Egyptian government allowed excavators to keep, the treasures found in Tutankhamun’s tomb were meant to stay in the country.

Fifteen of the 19 relics are “bits and samples,” the statement said. The remaining four, including the dog figurine and the sphinx, are “of more significant art-historical interest.”

Hawass said the objects will be on display in New York until June, when they will return to Egypt. They will be shown in the Tutankhamun galleries at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum before moving with the rest of the Tut collection to the Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza, scheduled to open in 2012.

Tutankhamun is believed to have died more than 3,000 years ago when he was about 18 years old.

His tomb, which included a gold coffin and mask, was discovered in 1922 by English archaeologist Howard Carter.

The dog figurine, which stands less than an inch high, and the blue sphinx bracelet piece were inherited by Carter’s niece as part of his estate.

Two other items, part of a handle and a beaded collar, were found in Carter’s Luxor house, the entire contents of which were bequeathed to the Met.

The agreement with the museum is the latest victory for Hawass, who has doggedly campaigned for the return of some of the country’s best known artefacts from abroad.

Hawass, who says he has brought back at least 5,000 relics since he became head of the antiquities council in 2003, earlier this year oversaw a conference of countries including Greece and China that also want looted treasures back.

Last year, he secured the return by the Louvre Museum in Paris of fresco fragments chipped from a tomb after he threatened to call off its excavations.

He has been campaigning for the return of the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum and the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti from Berlin’s Neues Museum.

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