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BY Mildred Europa Taylor, 10:05am January 03, 2023,

Interesting facts about the looted ancient ‘Green Coffin’ Egypt just got back from U.S.

The 2.9m (9.5ft) long "Green Coffin". Photo: EPA/BBC

Egypt has recovered its ancient wooden sarcophagus called the “Green Coffin” from the U.S. after it was looted several years ago. The sarcophagus, which is 2.9m (9.5ft) long, was returned to Egypt from the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences in the United States.

It dates back to the Late Dynastic Period, which spanned 664BC to 332BC, according to Egyptian officials. It belonged to a priest called Ankhenmaat but was looted from the Abu Sir Necropolis, north of Cairo. A global art trafficking network smuggled it through Germany into the U.S. in 2008. In 2013, a collector loaned it to the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences.

“This stunning coffin was trafficked by a well-organised network that has looted countless antiquities from the region,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L Bragg said recently. “We are pleased that this object will be returned to Egypt, where it rightfully belongs.”

On Monday, U.S. officials handed over the sarcophagus to Egyptian authorities at a ceremony in Cairo. In attendance was Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Tourism and Antiquities Minister Ahmed Issa. The sarcophagus was returned after an investigation that lasted more than two years. Egypt worked with U.S. authorities to get back the object.

“The sarcophagus is very thick, which pushed looters to steal the sarcophagus’s lid without the base,” Waziri said during a news conference on Monday. “Our sincere thanks to USA authorities for their cooperation in returning this precious piece,” the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also indicated in a tweet.

The object is known as the “Green Sarcophagus” because of the green face on top of it, Waziri explained. The network that looted the sarcophagus from Egypt also trafficked other precious objects that have since been returned including the Stele of Pa-di-Sena, which is also from the Late Dynastic Period, and the “Gold Coffin”.

Egypt has over the decade gotten back around 29,000 ancient pieces trafficked out of the country. More than 100 of the items looted were recovered in 2022 from the U.S., France, and New Zealand, officials said.

The return of the sarcophagus comes amid calls on Western countries to return artifacts looted during colonization. Last month, Germany returned 20 Benin Bronzes looted in the 19th Century to Nigeria following a deal made earlier in 2022 to bring back over 1,000 of the cultural artefacts. 

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 3, 2023


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