April 11, 2007

Egyptians secure return of Ramses II hair

Posted at 12:47 pm in Similar cases

Zahi Hawass has had some success with securing the return of Egyptian artefacts. There are many more that he still has his sights on however.

International Herald Tribune

Ramses II hair returned to Egyptian Museum
The Associated Press
Published: April 10, 2007

CAIRO, Egypt: With the Internet as their tool, Egyptian officials are scouring the world for artifacts of ancient Egypt they contend should rightfully be in Cairo.

They may be far from getting back the Rosetta Stone, but on Tuesday, officials unveiled 3,200-year-old hair locks from the pharaoh Ramses II, stolen 30 years ago in France and found after pieces of the hair went up for sale on the Internet.

“I was so upset, how the hair of the mummy — of the greatest king of Egypt — can be sold on the Internet,” said Egypt’s antiquities chief Zahi Hawass.

The small tufts of brown hair were displayed at the Egyptian Museum alongside pieces of linen bandages and 13 pieces of resin used in the mummification of Ramses and his son Merneptah in a glass display case.

The theft of the items was discovered when the pieces of hair and cloth from the mummy were put up for sale on a Web site last November by a French postman, Jean-Michel Diebolt, who gave the hair a price tag of 2,000 euros (US$2,600).

Diebolt apparently obtained the items from his late father, a French researcher who examined the ancient mummy when it was brought to France in 1976 for treatment to stop the spread of a rare fungus. The 50-year-old Diebolt is being investigated in France for allegedly possessing stolen goods.

Egyptian antiquities official Ahmed Salah traveled to Paris early last week to retrieve the stolen items.

“It was wonderful mission. I felt very great when I had the lock of hair of Ramses II in my hand,” Salah said.

Ramses II, who ruled from 1270 to 1213 B.C., is one of ancient Egypt’s most famous pharaohs, known for building some of its grandest monuments. Some believe him to be the pharaoh at the time of Moses.

Hawass said the retrieval of the items was made possible by the strong diplomatic relations between Egypt and France.

Hawass, who has pressed several countries for the return of Egyptian antiquities, said the Internet is playing an important role in the search for other stolen relics. He did not provide other specific examples of discovering other stolen goods on the Internet.

“We open the Internet everyday, and the most important source you have are my spies,” Hawass said. “I have spies all over the world, and those spies, they inform me every day of things you would not believe.”

Hawass has sought — without success — the return of such finds as the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, the bust of Nefertiti at Berlin’s Egyptian Museum and a pharaonic mask at the St. Louis Art Museum.

Hawass said Tuesday he planned to take legal action to get the Ka Nefer Nefer funerary mask back from St. Louis.

Saint Louis Art Museum director Brent Benjamin has said the museum intends to keep the mask as it has received nothing to support the claim that the mask was stolen before it was obtained in 1998.

But Hawass said Egypt is awaiting the arrival of a statue coming from Spain, another artifact from Mexico and duck-shaped lamps that were stolen from Saqqara and will be retrieved from Paris.

If Egypt has its way, more artifacts will follow. Salah added: “When one country gives you back your artifact, other countries will do the same.”

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