The antiquities ministry has located five ancient Egyptian artefacts that were smuggled out of the country in 2002, it announced on Saturday.
Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim announced that the artefacts were stolen during illegal excavations at the Saqqara necropolis, 25 kilometres south of the Giza pyramids.
Three of these objects, he told Ahram Online, are on display at the Fine Arts Museum in Budapest in Hungary, while the other two are listed on the brochure of an auction hall in Paris.
Ibrahim explained that the three objects in Budapest are parts of the upper lintel of the temple of an Old Kingdom priest named Hunefer, who was a high priest during the reign of king Pepi I (from 2332 to 2283 BC).
The temple was discovered in 2001 in the Tabet Al-Geish area of Saqqara by a French archeological mission.
The artefacts on display in Budapest are parts of the upper part of the lintel of the chapel entrance, depicting the priest alongside hieroglyphic text.
Ibrahim told Ahram Online that according to the documents of the Fine Arts Museum in Budapest, the three objects were bought by the museum in 2002 from an auction house. The museum was informed that the objects were bought in 1974.
But, he went on, by asking the French mission, the three objects were shown to be stolen from the site via illegal excavations.
In addition, Ibrahim asserted, excavation works at the Tabet Al-Geish area did not start before 2000, when the French mission began its excavation there.
According to Ali Ahmed, the head of the antiquities recovery division of the ministry, the other two objects, currently on display in the brochure of a French auction house, are part of the western lintel of Hunefer’s chapel.
The ministry is taking all legal procedures to return the objects to Egypt.