Golden coffin stolen during 2011 revolution returned to Egypt

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Egypt's Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany (R) and Chargé d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo Thomas Goldberger (C) look at the Golden Coffin of Nedjemankh, on display at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo on October 1, 2019, following its repatriation from the US. (AFP)
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Egypt's Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany (L) and Chargé d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo Thomas Goldberger look at the Golden Coffin of Nedjemankh, on display at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo on October 1, 2019, following its repatriation from the US. (AFP)
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Egypt's Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany (3rd-R) and Chargé d'Affaires at the US Embassy in Cairo Thomas Goldberger (2nd-R) look at the Golden Coffin of Nedjemankh, on display at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo on October 1, 2019, following its repatriation from the US. (AFP)
Updated 02 October 2019

Golden coffin stolen during 2011 revolution returned to Egypt

  • The large decorated coffin dates back to the first century BC. It was excavated from Minya governorate in Upper Egypt, stolen by antique gangs eight years ago and then smuggled out of the country

CAIRO: Egyptian and American authorities have announced that the golden coffin of Egyptian priest Nedjemankh, which was stolen during the 2011 revolution, was this week returned to Egypt after it was fraudulently sold to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The large decorated coffin dates back to the first century BC. It was excavated from Minya governorate in Upper Egypt, stolen by antique gangs eight years ago and then smuggled out of the country. 

According to the Daily Mail, the Met purchased the coffin from a Paris art dealer in July 2017 for about $4 million. It came with bogus documentation, including a forged 1971 Egyptian export license. 

The museum believed that the art dealer, Christophe Kunicki, was acting in good faith and had a legal right to sell the coffin. 

As a result, the museum was deceived into believing that it could legitimately purchase the golden coffin. 

The object was placed on public display and soon became a major hit with visitors. It was not long before 500,000 people had been to see the coffin, which is in the shape of a mummy, is 2 meters long and is skillfully made from wood and metal, with a covering of sheets of gold.

Ahmed Fathy, a restoration official at Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, said that the Met was approached by the district attorney’s office in New York in February this year. 

It came forward with evidence indicating that the prized artifact was stolen as part of an international smuggling operation. After reviewing the evidence, the museum’s officials agreed to return the golden coffin to its rightful owners, the Egyptian people, and removed the item from public display.

Fathy said that the coffin was identified as stolen thanks to the efforts of the Antiquities Anti-Smuggling Unit, which is affiliated with the office of the district attorney in New York, and with the cooperation of officials from the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Antiquities. 

The unit had previously succeeded in retrieving stolen Roman, Greek, Indian and Buddhist monuments and returned them to their countries of origin. He added that Egypt has become more determined to recover its monuments that have been stolen or illegally sold.

A press conference was held last week announcing the imminent repatriation of the coffin. 

It was attended by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, the New York district attorney and senior officials. 

Shoukry stated that the coffin “is not only for Egyptians but this is for our common human heritage.”

Investigations into the theft and illegal sale of the historic item are ongoing. 

The authorities have not indicated if they have identified any suspects. The Met is reportedly deeply angered by the incident and is reviewing how it acquires new items. The museum has also vowed to retrieve the money that it gave to the French art dealer for the stolen item.

An official at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Arab News that the coffin will be displayed in the new Grand Egyptian Museum, which is due to open next year.

History researcher Abdel-Meguid Abdel-Aziz said that Nedjemankh’s coffin dates back to when Egypt was ruled by the Ptolemaic dynasty. 

Nedjemankh was a senior priest of the ram-god Heryshef of Herakleopolis (now the Ehnasia district in Beni Suef). The coffin no longer contains the mummy of the priest.

The coffin of Nedjemankh is elaborately decorated with scenes and hieroglyphic texts meant to guide the priest on his journey to eternal life. 

The gold symbolized the priest’s special relationship with the Egyptian gods. A unique feature of the coffin are the thin layers of silver inside the casket, possibly designed to protect the face of the priest during his journey to the afterlife.


Lebanon sets out its claim in maritime border talks

Updated 29 October 2020

Lebanon sets out its claim in maritime border talks

  • A military source told Arab News: “The Lebanese side considers that Israel, through the border line it drew for itself, is eating into huge areas of Lebanese economic waters.”

BEIRUT: Lebanese negotiators laid out their claim to maritime territory on Wednesday as they began a second round of talks with Israel over their disputed sea border.
The contested zone in the Mediterranean is an estimated 860 square kilometers known as Block 9, which is rich in oil and gas. Future negotiations will also tackle the countries’ land border.
Wednesday’s meeting took place at the headquarters of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) amid tight security. An assistant of the UN special coordinator for Lebanon chaired the session, and the US Ambassador to Algeria, John Desrocher, was the mediator.
A military source told Arab News: “The Lebanese side considers that Israel, through the border line it drew for itself, is eating into huge areas of Lebanese economic waters.”
The Lebanese delegation produced maps and documents to support their claim to the disputed waters.
In indirect talks between Lebanon and Israel in 2012, US diplomat Frederick Hoff proposed “a middle line for the maritime borders, whereby Lebanon would get 58 percent of the disputed area and Israel would be given the remaining 42 percent, which translates to 500 square kilometers for Lebanon and 300 square kilometers for Israel.”
On the eve of Wednesday’s meeting, Lebanese and Israeli officials met to discuss a framework to resolve the conflict through the implementation of UN Resolution 1701.
UNIFIL Commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col praised the “constructive role that both parties played in calming tensions along the Blue Line” and stressed the necessity of “taking proactive measures and making a change in the prevailing dynamics regarding tension and escalation.”