Smuggled Egyptian antiquities to be returned from U.S. - minister

by Reuters
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 16:31 GMT

CAIRO, March 12 (Reuters) - Egypt's antiquities minister said on Wednesday that U.S. authorities had agreed to return eight Pharaonic items smuggled into the United States in 2011.

In a statement published by official Egyptian news agency MENA, Mohammed Ibrahim said that he had secured the return of the items while on an official visit to Washington D.C.

The items "represent ancient Egyptian civilization," Ibrahim said, and include models of wooden boats dating back nearly four millennia, the lid of a sarcophagus painted over with the portrait of its deceased occupant and a mummy encased in colourfully decorated plaster.

The statement noted the artworks were seized by American Homeland Security officials when they arrived at customs in New York City and had probably been excavated illegally and smuggled.

Egypt and other Arab countries beset by security and political turmoil since 2011 Arab Spring uprisings have struggled to secure ancient sites and stanch the flow of smuggling.

Several items were reported stolen from Cairo's antiquity museum during the uprising that toppled autocrat President Hosni Mubarak.

Archaeology sites in Syria have been persistently looted and in some cases pulverized by bombing in the brutal three-year-old war there to unseat President Bashar al-Assad, which has killed more 100,000 people. (Reporting By Noah Browning; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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