Stolen Egyptian Antiquities Hit the Open Market
Evidence is mounting that looted and undocumented Egyptian antiquities have now reached auction houses in the West, reports Conflict Antiquities.
In the aftermath of Egypt’s January 25 revolution in 2011, when a popular uprising ended the 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak, the uncertain security situation in the country was exploited by looters and illicit antiquities dealers who reportedly exported swathes of stolen treasures abroad.
But the scope of that looting is now believed to have been far greater than previously thought. As the Cairo Post first reported, Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh Eldamaty announced last Sunday that the ministry had successfully managed to suspend the sale of 10 ancient artifacts at an Australian auction house. If artifacts can make it to the public auction market in Australia, then experts also assume that objects have reached private collections in the West and the Middle East as well.
Responding to the discovery, Aly Ahmed of the Ministry’s Restored Artifacts Department (RAD) said, “The Australian authorities responded and seized the artifacts and will send them back to Egypt.” He also confirmed that the artifacts were stolen in illegal archaeological excavations that took place in the security vacuum that followed the January 25 revolution.
Egypt has recovered around 1,600 artifacts during the past four years. However, as Ahmed previously stated, locating registered pieces from museums or storage facilities “is the easiest part of our job, while the process of detecting and repatriating unregistered ones is like searching for a needle in a haystack.” He added, “There is no way to know that they even exist.”
Follow Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.