/ 3 January 2023

Egypt recovers 2 700-year-old sarcophagus lid from United States

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transported to the US in 2008. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Egypt announced on Monday the recovery of a sarcophagus lid dating back nearly 2 700 years that it said had been smuggled out and put on display at a museum in the United States.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry announced the recovery of the artefact, known as the “Green Sarcophagus”, during a televised press conference on Monday.

He said it had been surreptitiously removed from the country and its recovery is part of efforts to protect Egypt’s heritage.

The lid, measuring nearly three metres in length and 90 centimetres in width, was among 17 artefacts recently recovered from the US, said Tourism and Antiquities Minister Ahmed Issa.

The sarcophagus lid was looted from the Abusir necropolis south of Cairo then transported to the US in 2008, eventually making its way to the Houston Museum of Natural Science in 2013, according to state media.

Over the past decade, Egypt has recovered about 29 000 antiquities found to have been taken abroad through illegitimate means.

Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the sarcophagus probably belonged to a nobleman.

He said it dates back to the Late Period of Ancient Egypt, and it was named the Green Sarcophagus because of the colour of the face etched on it.

Only the lid had been stolen, he added, as the whole coffin weighs about half a tonne, making it one of the largest wooden sarcophagi from Ancient Egypt.

In addition to the latest recovered artefacts, Egypt has unveiled more than 300 sarcophagi and 150 bronze statuettes over the past two years, some of them dating back more than 3 000 years.

They were among major discoveries made that the authorities hope will help revive the country’s vital tourism sector, hit hard after the Covid pandemic and previous unrest. — AFP