Monday, November 24, 2008

Egypt renews calls for the return of mummy mask

Zahi Hawass has renewed calls for the return of the mummy mask excavated at Saqqara and presently residing in the St Louis Art Museum (SLAM) (Marjorie Olster, "Egypt faces obstacles in recovering antiquities", AP, November 23, 2008). The AP report quoted Zahi Hawass:

"This is the No. 1 case ... Egypt has a right to the mask."

The history of the piece has been rehearsed elsewhere (also here). My personal view is that SLAM, and its director Brent Benjamin, need to press the gallery where the mask was purchased for authenticated documentation. This would demonstrate the veracity of the alternative account. Benjamin continues to take the position:

To date, we have not seen information that we believe is compelling enough to return the object.

Apparently the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is now investigating the acquisition at the request of Hawass.

Hawass also comments on the new Egyptian law relating to the theft of antiquities.

"Our new law will give us the power to take people to court in Egypt," Hawass said. "(Benjamin) will be wanted in Egypt."

The fight will only intensify after Benjamin's controversial appointment to CPAC.

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