The golden coffin of ancient Egyptian priest Nedjemankh, which was recently repatriated from the United States, has been put on display for the first time in Egypt at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation (NMEC).
The coffin is carved in wood and covered in a layer of gold inscribed with the name of Nedjemankh, a high-ranking priest of the ram god Heryshef of Herakleopolis from the late Ptolemaic period.
US Chargé d’Affaires Thomas Goldberger attended the inauguration ceremony, where local and international media gathered to try and catch a glimpse of the gilded coffin.
Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany expressed his gratitude to all the ambassadors attended the inauguration to admire the coffin, describing their attendance as symbolic of their countries’ fight against the illicit trafficking of artefacts.
The minister also thanked to the US authorities for their full cooperation in returning the coffin, which had been purchased by the Metropolitan Museum in New York through an antiquities trader who held a 1971 Egyptian export license.
“This is not only for Egyptians, but for our common human heritage and our sense that we all share in these values and we are all of the same international family,” El-Enany said.
El-Enany and Goldberger and ambassadors with the coffin at the NMEC
Shaaban Abdel-Gawad, supervisor-general of Egypt’s Antiquities Repatriation Department, said that investigations undertaken by the Manhattan district attorney’s office lasted for around 20 months, during which Egypt submitted evidence of ownership and proof that the trader’s export license was fake. Before the Antiquities Protection Law No 117 of 1983, Egyptian law allowed the export of some artefacts.
El-Enany and Goldberger with the coffin at the NMEC
The Manhattan district attorney found that Egypt is indeed the rightful owner of the coffin and ordered that it should be returned to its homeland.
The coffin’s elaborately decorated surface includes scenes and texts in thick gesso relief that were intended to protect and guide Nedjemankh on his journey from death to eternal life as a transfigured spirit.