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US museum returns stolen sarcophagus to Egypt

Authorities from the United States have returned a stolen ancient Egyptian sarcophagus to its native land.

The adorned stone coffin in question was acquired by the City of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art two years ago. The antique is believed to be over 2,000 years old and is owned by an ancient priest called Nedjemankh. It was displayed in an exhibit that features ancient Egyptian artifacts at the museum.

Officials say the New York Met had bought the sarcophagus from a global art trafficking network with fraud documents, as per the BBC. The artifact was reportedly stolen and illegally smuggled out of Egypt back in 2011.

District Attorney of Manhattan Cyrus Vance told press on Wednesday:

“Thus far our investigation has determined that this coffin is just one of the hundreds of antiquities stolen by the same multinational trafficking ring.” A repatriation ceremony was held to recognize its return. Vance went on to tell the media about plans to crack down on illegally trafficked precious artifacts.

BBC reports that an art dealer from Paris was the one to sell the coffin to the Met for USD4 million. The sarcophagus dates back as early as the 1st Century BC. It had traveled a long way first, to Germany where it was restored to its former glory. It was then transported to France.

Prosecutors say the prestigious museum was given a fraud Egyptian export license from 1971 and more falsified documents.

Reuters quoted Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Minister welcoming the repatriation saying:
“This is not only for Egyptians but this is for our common human heritage.”