Egypt on Wednesday received from Germany a painted limestone relief that was stolen in the last century from the tomb of 18th dynasty high priest Sobekhotep in the Nobles necropolis on Luxor’s west bank.
Minister of Antiquities and Heritage Mamdouh El-Damati told Ahram Online that the recovery of the relief started a few months ago when he was Egypt’s cultural attaché in Germany and curators at Bonn University Museum were working hard to organise a temporary exhibition there.
During preparations, a curator at the museum spotted the relief and it was confirmed that it was stolen and had been taken from the 18th dynasty tomb of Sobekhotep, a high priest during the reign of King Tuthmose IV.
The limestone relief is in very good condition. It is 30cm tall and 40cm wide. It depicts two figures of Sobehotep standing and making offerings to deities.
The owners of the relief, a German couple, did not know it was stolen because they brought from a British private collection in 1986 and offered it to Bonn University Museum so it could be displayed at the temporary exhibition.
When they found out it was a stolen and illegally smuggled artefact, said El-Damati, they admitted Egypt’s possession of the relief but asked for it to remain in Germany at the Friderish Museum for Ancient Egyptian Artefacts in Al-Rin area in Bonn. Egypt rejected the demand and said it should be returned under antiquities law 117 of 1983 and its amendment in 2010.
Hence the couple agreed to return the relief after putting it on display for three weeks at the exhibition in Bonn.
Egypt’s embassy in Germany stated on its website that Ambassador Mohamed Hegazy held a celebration on the occasion of returning the artefact and praised the couple for returning it.
Hegazy called on antiquities collectors to return the Egyptian artefacts they own voluntarily to where they belong.
He also called on German authorities to cooperate with Egyptian authorities to protect its cultural and archaeological heritage in accordance with the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing Illicit Import.