Art

US Returns Ancient Egyptian 'Green Coffin' To Cairo

Egypt coffins
Photo By: Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images

The “green coffin,” an ancient Egyptian artifact looted years ago was recently returned to Cairo.

Egypt's 9.5-foot-long artifact, dubbed the "green coffin," was recently returned to Cairo after it was looted over ten years ago. The artifact, which represents the Late Dynastic period of Egypt that dated from 525-332 BCE, belonged to priest Ankhenmaat and was illegally taken and then smuggled through Germany into the US in 2008 by the Dib-Simonian network, an infamous trafficking organization.

The statue, which is valued at $1 million, was sold to a private collector and then loaned to the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences, where it was displayed before it was revealed that the item was illegally obtained.

In a January 2 news release, American Ambassador to Egypt Daniel Rubinstein said that the ceremony bore a significant representation.

"Today's ceremony is emblematic of the long history of cooperation between the United States and Egypt on antiquities protection and cultural heritage preservation," said Rubinstein.

District Attorney Alvin Bragg made a similar statement in a September 2022 news release.

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

According to officials, the Dib-Simonian network was also responsible for looting other Egyptian historical artifacts, including another ancient Egyptian coffin and other artifacts seized from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Following a thorough years-long investigation, the sarcophagus was officially repatriated and returned to Cairo by U.S diplomats in a ceremony on January 2. Several prominent people were at the event, including Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Tourism and Antiquities Minister Ahmed Issa. This event marks yet another artifact return from a western country.

Last year, Germany returned 20 Benin bronzes that it took from Nigeria at the height of colonization, and following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, South Africa demanded that the monarchy return the largest clear-cut diamond in the world, known as the Great Star of Africa. Since then, several other countries have called on foreign governments to return illegally acquired artifacts, prompting a growing number of repatriations.

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