IAA seizes stolen Egyptian sarcophagi in Old City

Antiquities Authority says it is battling to end the practice of smuggling artifacts through Israel.

By OREN KESSLER
April 3, 2012 12:51
1 minute read.
Egyptian Sarcophagi seized in Jerusalem

Egyptian Sarcophagi seized in Jerusalem 390. (photo credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Aut)

 
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Antiquities Authority inspectors recently seized two rare ancient Egyptian sarcophagus covers in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The antiquities experts have confirmed the covers as authentic, dating one to the Late Bronze Age (16th- 14th centuries BCE) and the other to the Iron Age (10th-8th centuries BCE).

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The wood-and-plaster covers, each two meters long, were found for sale in a storefront in the Old City marketplace. They are being held in climate-controlled conditions in an Antiquities Authority laboratory in Jerusalem. The location and condition of the rest of the sarcophagi and the mummies they contained remain unclear.

The Antiquities Authority said it suspects the sarcophagus covers were plundered from tombs in Egypt’s Western Desert and from there transferred to Dubai and Europe before making their way to Jerusalem. The covers are split in two – evidence, researchers say, that they had been modified to facilitate smuggling.

Shai Bar-Tura of the Antiquities Authority’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery said that starting April 20, Israel will only allow the import of antiquities certified to have been legally exported from their country of origin.

“The new regulation will provide us with the tools needed in order to prevent the importation into the country of antiquities that were stolen or plundered in other countries, thus enabling us to thwart the international cycle of robbery and trade in stolen archeological artifacts,” he said.

Egypt has asked for the artifacts’ repatriation, and officials from the Antiquities Authority, Israel Police and Foreign Ministry are examining the request.

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