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Egypt recovers 2,700-year-old sarcophagus lid smuggled into the US

An Egyptian top official at the Supreme Council of Antiquities looks at an ancient wooden sarcophagus during a handover ceremony at the foreign ministry in Cairo, Jan.2, 2023.   -  
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Mohamed Salah/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.


A sarcophagus dating back to the Late Dynastic Period of ancient Egypt, has eventually returned home.

Egyptian officials announced Monday, that the artefact, which was featured at the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences had been symbolically handed over at a ceremony in Cairo by the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Egypt.

The handover came more than three months after the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office determined the sarcophagus was looted from Abu Sir Necropolis, north of Cairo.

It was smuggled through Germany into the United States in 2008, according to Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin L. Bragg.

"This stunning coffin was trafficked by a well-organized network that has looted countless antiquities from the region," Bragg said at the time. "We are pleased that this object will be returned to Egypt, where it rightfully belongs."

The sarcophagus which is almost 3 meters (9.5 feet) tall with a brightly painted top surface, may have belonged to an ancient priest.

It dates back from an era that spanned the last of the Pharaonic rulers from 664 B.C. until Alexander the Great’s campaign in 332 B.C, according to Mostafa Waziri, the top official at the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

In a decade, Egypt has recovered over 29,000 artefacts that were stolen and sold outside of the country.

The return of the priceless objects could enable Egypt to boost its tourism sector which has yet to recover from the impact of the Covid crisis.

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