New York museum to return Tutankhamun relics

Friday 26 Nov 2010

Egypt's antiquities council announces agreement to return Tut relics from New York



Egypt's antiquities council said on Wednesday that New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art has agreed to send back treasures believed to have been taken from the tomb of the legendary pharaoh Tutankhamun.

The museum agreed to recognise Egypt's right to 19 relics in its possession since early last century, the council said in a statement.

The artifacts, which include a bronze figurine of a dog with a golden collar and a sphinx, part of a bracelet made of semi-precious lapis lazuli, will be returned next year and go on display in 2012, antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said.

"Thanks to the generosity and ethical behavior of the Met, these 19 objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun can now be reunited with the other treasures of the boy king," Hawass said in a statement.

He said the artifacts will remain on display in the United States until mid-2011.

Tutankhamun is believed to have died more than 3,000 years ago when he was about 18 years.

His tomb, which included a gold coffin and mask, was discovered in 1922 by English archaeologist Howard Carter.

The statement said the Metropolitan museum decided to hand over to Egypt the rights to the relics after research by two of its curators determined their provenance.

Unlike other archaeological discoveries at the time, some of which the Egyptian government allowed excavators to keep, the treasures found in Tutankhamun's tomb were meant to stay in the country, the statement said.

It said speculation mounted after Carter's death in 1939 that certain relics abroad originated in the Valley of the Kings tomb Tutankhamen was buried in after his mysterious death.

Studies of the Metropolitan Museum's collection that included the 19 relics found that most came from elsewhere, the statement said.

The agreement is the latest victory for Hawass, who has doggedly campaigned for the return of some of the country's best known artifacts from abroad.

Hawass, who says he has brought back at least 5,000 relics since he became head of the antiquities council in 2003, earlier this year oversaw a conference of countries such as Greece and China that also want back their looted artifacts.

Last year, Hawass forced the Louvre Museum in Paris to return fresco fragments chipped from a tomb after he threatened to call off its excavations.

He has been campaigning for the return of the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum and the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti from Berlin's Neues Museum.

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