CAIRO – 20 July 2020: Various museums around the world house artifacts that were smuggled outside their home country via illegal ways. Egypt for example has suffered from the illegal smuggling of its precious artifacts throughout the ages, where thousands of artifacts were lost without a trace.
In the following lines, we will shed light on three significant artifacts that were smuggled outside Egypt and have not yet been recovered.
The Rosetta Stone was discovered in Citadel of Qaitbay in Rashid in 1799. When the French campaign left Egypt, the British seized it. It was decoded by the French Champollion. Through it, the ancient Egyptian language was learned, which contributed to revealing the secrets of the ancient Egyptian civilization.
The Rosetta Stone, currently in the British Museum, is the most sought after artifacts by visitors to the museum, and even the card bearing its image is the best-selling in the museum.
Nefertiti Head Statue
In 1912, a German archaeological mission headed by Bochardt visited Cairo to work in Tel el-Amarna Area. One of the antiquities the mission took and smuggled from Egypt was the head of Nefertiti.
Two conceptions are common regarding this incident, the first is that the German mission to Egypt illegally smuggled the statue of Nefertiti’s head outside Egypt through a scam. The second conception regarding this statue is that Germany is not willing to return any of the Egyptian artifacts located in the Berlin Museum, despite numerous trials from the Egyptian state to retrieve its stolen treasures.
The statue of Sekhemka caused uproar in 2016, after leaving Britain to an unknown destination that later turned out to be America, and according to British documents, the British Museum of Northampton sold it to an unknown buyer in July 2014.
The museum sold the 4,500 year-old limestone statue at an auction for GBP 16 million, allegedly to develop the museum. With the uproar that accompanied the sale of the statue and the Egyptian and British campaigns against its sale, the buyer decided not to reveal his/her identity or the place where the statue would be moved.
The statue is 75 centimeters long depicting one of the supervisors in an ancient Egyptian courthouse holding an open papyrus in one of his hands. Next to him is a smaller statue of his wife hugging his leg, his son next to his other leg, and seven of his offerings are on both sides and the back of his seat.
The Spencer Compton family donated the statue to the museum in 1880. The second Marquess of Northampton had brought the statue to Britain after a trip to Egypt three decades earlier, according to the British Independent.
The rare statue is of great importance to the Egyptian civilization and human civilization in general, as it is the only known artifact that includes a three-dimensional shape, prominent reliefs and hieroglyphs in one work from the third millennium BC in Egypt, in addition to the scarcity of statues representing an entire family in the Old Kingdom, according to the British Export File.