Stolen Coffin Returns to Egypt After Decade of Display
An ancient gold coffin was returned to Egypt on Sept. 25 after almost a decade on display at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was taken by antiquities traffickers back in 2011 from the Minya region during the Egyptian Revolution in 2011 and sold to The Met in 2017 using fake documentations.
The museum had purchased the coffin in 2017 from a Parisian art dealer who had forged a 1971 Egyptian export license to cover the theft. The coffin was made the centerpiece of the Nadjemankh exhibit where it was put on display with 70 other items from the Egyptian collection until last February when the Manhattan District Attorney (DA)’s Office came forward with evidence about the illegal trafficking. A search warrant allowed the DA to seize it from display. The Met immediately closed the exhibit.
The coffin, believed to belong to Nedjemankh, a high-ranking priest, will be returned to Cairo where it will be displayed at the Grand Egyptian Museum. The coffin itself, made of gold, wood, and other materials, is worth $4 million and dates back to the 1st century BC. Its gold covering is common in representing the flesh and bones of the deaths of high-ranking officials like those of gods.
Nedjemankh was a priest of the god Heryshef, a ram-headed deity. The coffin surface was elaborately decorated with scenes to guide the priest in the afterlife.
Egypt has been working to retrieve many stolen artifacts globally for years. Many resurfaced in London after disappearing from various museums.
"It is not just the protection of our heritage, but it is the protection of mankind's heritage,” said Sameh Hassan Shoukry, Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. met with Shoukry at a press conference to repatriate the artifact to its rightful owner. The DA’s office has not revealed the identities of any suspects.
The DA’s office was able to uncover this due to the work of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit, which has recovered antiquities worthy of $150 million to date.