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Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Is the Sekhemka statue lost for good?

Despite all efforts exerted by Egypt and Britain, the sale procedures for the 4500-year-old statue are to begin soon after an export ban expired on Friday

Nevine El-Aref , Saturday 29 Aug 2015
statue
Sekhemka satatue
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The British export ban on the Sekhemka statue expired on Friday, meaning that the 4,500-year-old sculpture could leave the UK for good, into the hands of an anonymous private buyer

A British archaeologist, who asked to remain anonymous, told Ahram Online that the sale procedures are set to start Saturday to hand over the statue to its anonymous buyer.

The Save Sekhemka Action Group has started legal procedures to keep the statue of a pharaonic civil servant in public display at a British museum.

In a statement published on its website, the group describes the sale of the statue to an anonymous buyer and moving it to an unknown place as "a deprivation of knowledge of the ancient Egyptian civilisation."

Nasry Marco, president of the Court of Arbitration in Egypt and an international lawyer, said that a decree by the Sultan of Egypt in 800AD prohibits the export of any artefacts without written permission and there is no mention of this statue in the records of the Egyptian Museum or any other documents.

"By default it was illegally taken out of the country," he said, pointing out that the group is expecting a judgement for restitution of the statue to Egypt, or to keep the statue in the UK until further notice.

The group also urges the British authorities to negotiate with the buyer to put the statue on loan to a British museum or give it as a gift to a British museum which can look after it until it may find a secure home in an Egyptian museum.

The export bar expired on Friday but according to a statement by the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport the ban could be extended if a UK buyer makes a serious bid.

A British Egyptologist who also requested anonymity told Ahram Online that British Egyptologists believe that there is no much need to buy the statue and pay a large amount of money because “it seems unlikely that any public body will want to be seen to reward Northampton Borough Council by being involved in the purchase of the statue.”

He also said that British museums have a large number of antiquities from the same era as the Sekhemka statue, which make its purchase not worthwhile.

On the other hand, Egypt's Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty, who describes the sale of Sekhemka as "a historically indecent crime," called on Egyptian businessmen and wealthy antiquities lovers to help in collecting the required money to re-purchase the statue and return it to its homeland.

He also announced that the ministry has stopped all archeological cooperation and relations with Northampton Museum, which sold the statue last year to make up for its lack of funds.

The statue was sold by Northampton Borough Council, which runs Northampton Museum, and Lord Northampton for £15.8 million at auction last year, breaching the Museums Association’s Code of Ethics, which led it to being barred from the association and losing its accreditation with Arts Council England.

The council’s subsequent bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £240,000 was turned down on the grounds that the fund was only open to museums with accreditation.

Northampton Council told the BBC that any action was a matter for the current owner and the two governments.

The sale of Sekhemka compels Egyptian Egyptologists to ask: will the other ancient Egyptian artefacts at the Northampton Museum face the same fate as Sekhemka?

statue
The other artifacts offered by the second Marquess to the Northampton Museum
 

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Michael Hughes
08-09-2015 07:58pm
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Mr
Everything should be done to ensure Egyptian antiquities are protected.
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Michael Hughes
08-09-2015 07:58pm
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Mr
Everything should be done to ensure Egyptian antiquities are protected.
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Isis
29-08-2015 08:00pm
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diplomacy?
the rest of the world must not follow the Egyptian way; they must simply do what is right. Is the artefact of Egyptian origin? Yes, it is! Did it leave the country in an illegal way and end up in Britain? Yes, it did! Can we safely say this is a case of robbery? Yes, we can! Now how would diplomacy have helped in a case like that? Assuaging whom? And who should be feeling insulted?
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Sam Enslow
29-08-2015 08:36pm
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Why wait?
The rightful ownership of the statue was examined. If Egypt believed the statue to be theirs, why did they wait so long to make a claim?
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Sam Enslow
29-08-2015 06:30pm
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Terrible diplomacy
Once again Egypt goes making demands and insulting anyone who disagrees with its position. Had Egypt taken a polite and reasonable approach to the problem, perhaps the statue's new owner could have been persuaded to bequeath the statue to Egypt or at a later date donate the statue to Egypt. But no, Egypt wants to cite 1200 year old laws to justify its claims and heap insults on those who might have cooperated with Egypt had Egypt behaved in a courteous manner, followed the law, or perhaps purchased the statue at the time of sale. The rest of the world is not obligated to follow The Egyptian Way.
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Sam Enslow
29-08-2015 08:33pm
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Law - not personal feelings
The sale was reviewed by the law and allowed. It is not a question of emotional beliefs. The UN Treaty on antiquities did not become ratified until 1973(?). It is not ex post facto in nature.
Glen Parry
29-08-2015 07:19pm
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It shouldn't have been sold in the first place
I must disagree. As one of the many thousands who signed the original petition to prevent the sale of the statue, I still contend that the museum broke the terms of it's donation & therefore the sale should have been declared invalid. At the time the statue was acquirted, by the doinor, it was by a perfectly legal means but it was then, in common with many Victorian philonthropic acts, donated to the museum, in order to make education available to all; not with a view to being sold at some future date.
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