Saturday, March 13, 2010

Egyptian sarcophagus returned


Last month I commented on the Egyptian sarcophagus detained at Miami. Earlier this week the sarcophagus was handed over to the Egyptian  authorities at the National Geographic Society [press release]. Zahi Hawass was present at the event: "A piece of our history that left Egypt under mysterious circumstances has found its way home with the help of our partners in the U.S. government".

It appears that the sarcophagus was imported with incomplete paperwork.
The coffin was intercepted by CBP at Miami International Airport in 2008 and initially scrutinized for agricultural concerns. An agriculture specialist, concerned that the coffin would require a permit, referred it to the Trade Enforcement Team and ICE. CBP and ICE contacted the importer to establish whether the coffin had been exported legally from Egypt. ICE tracked the sale of the sarcophagus to a U.S. citizen, who was neither an art dealer nor broker. He claimed to have sold it already to a Canadian. Neither the importer nor the Spanish Gallery that exported it could establish its legal export from Egypt or when or how it would have left Egypt. Given the absence of a credible provenance, the item was determined to be owned by Egypt through its Cultural Patrimony Laws. The item was seized as imported stolen property. ICE worked through its attaché offices in Egypt and Spain to provide the information that led to the forfeiture of the property.
An additional press release adds:
Suspicions were confirmed when Felix Cervera, a Spanish gallery owner who had shipped the sarcophagus into the U.S., could not provide proper provenance (documentation showing ownership of a valued object or work of art or literature).
I also observe that since the news broke the membership list of the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA) has been updated. There are no longer any members in Spain.


Image
© ICE


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