A storehouse of Coptic, Islamic and some ancient Egyptian artefacts was raided on the American University in Cairo’s (AUC) campus, beneath Ewart Hall at the end of March.
An inventory was carried out by the ministry of state of antiquities affairs immediately after the discovery, which reveals that a total of 145 authentic pieces and 50 replicas are missing, Egyptian Minister for Antiquities Affairs, Zahi Hawass tells Ahram Online.
“AUC is deeply disturbed by what appears to have been the theft of antiquities in their custody,” Rehab Saad from AUC communications office told Ahram Online in a statement, adding that the university is cooperating fully with the judicial investigation, as well as conducting an internal inquiry of its own.
El Araby said that he had received reports of attempts to steal the artefacts and sent employees to check the area. They found the lock broken and a report was made to Kasr El-Nil police station.
Three AUC employees were arrested and charged with the theft and a court hearing has been scheduled for Sunday, 27 March.
AUC has offered to make public the findings of their internal investigation when it is concluded.
The fact, however, that only university employees seemed to know that this stash of antiquities existed raised eyebrows.
Saad’s official statement to Ahram Online defends that the items are the property of the university and are registered with the government as part of Egypt’s national heritage collection.
Indeed, the Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs Zahi Hawass, himself confirmed to Ahram Online that all the antiquities in possession of AUC are documented with the ministry and that the last inventory was carried out last year.
Ali El Araby, executive director of supply chain management and business support, explained that exhibiting the artefacts to the public would require space and strict security measures that the university lacked.
The artefacts were the result of excavation work carried out by the university in the El Fustat area in the 1946 and lead by Egyptologists and American archaeologist, George Scanlon.
AUC retained the right to keep these artefacts because the excavation fell under Egyptian law number 215 of 1951, which allowed those who found artefacts to retain a share of the findings.
That article was only cancelled in the year 1983 and replaced by law number 117.
The AUC antiquities collection was also looted in 1989 and the criminal has yet been found.