Ankhhaf is unique, and by the terms of the Museum's contract with the Egyptian government, he should have gone to the Cairo Museum. However, he was awarded to Boston by the Antiquities Service in gratitude for the Harvard-Boston Expedition's painstaking work to excavate and restore objects from the tomb of Queen Hetepheres.In other words the bust was not looted; it was excavated. It was not removed from Egypt by illicit means; it was assigned to Boston.
Geoff Edgers now reports on Egypt's hope for the return of Ankhhaf ("Fragile, don’t touch", Boston.com August 14, 2011). Zahi Hawass made a claim on the statue in 2005, and Mohamed Saleh has now identified a space for Ankhhaf in the new Egyptian Museum. Edgers reminds us:
The bust of Ankhhaf was given to the MFA by a previous Egyptian government, so the current government has no legal case. Any appeal must be made on moral grounds: that the piece is part of Egypt’s patrimony, and belongs at home.In other words, Ankhhaf is so important to the study of Egyptology that it should reside in Egypt. Patty Gerstenblith was asked to comment: "There is no way Ankhhaf should be lumped with something that was illegally obtained ... But there may be times when a country wants something back even when it was given and obtained legitimately." Edgers also comments on Hawass who mistakenly described the statue as "stolen".
Edgers rightly reminds us of the conservation issues relating to Ankhhaf. Is it in the interests of this "unique" piece to transport it to Egypt even as a temporary loan?