After being looted several years ago, Egypt has recovered its ancient wooden sarcophagus known as the “Green Coffin” from the United States. The 2.9m (9.5ft) long sarcophagus was returned to Egypt from the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences in the United States.
According to Egyptian officials, it dates back to the Late Dynastic Period, which lasted from 664BC to 332BC. It was looted from the Abu Sir Necropolis, north of Cairo, and belonged to a priest named Ankhenmaat. In 2008, a global art trafficking network smuggled it through Germany into the United States. A collector loaned it to the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences in 2013.
“This stunning coffin was trafficked by a well-organised network that has looted countless antiquities from the region,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L Bragg said recently. “We are pleased that this object will be returned to Egypt, where it rightfully belongs.”
At a ceremony in Cairo on Monday, US officials handed over the sarcophagus to Egyptian authorities. Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, and Tourism and Antiquities Minister, Ahmed Issa, were both present. After a more than two-year investigation, the sarcophagus was returned. Egypt collaborated with US authorities to recover the object.
“The sarcophagus is very thick, which pushed looters to steal the sarcophagus’s lid without the base,” Waziri said during a news conference on Monday. “Our sincere thanks to USA authorities for their cooperation in returning this precious piece,” the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also indicated in a tweet.
Waziri explained that the object is known as the “Green Sarcophagus” because of the green face on top of it. The network that looted the sarcophagus from Egypt also trafficked other precious objects that have since been returned including the Stele of Pa-di-Sena, which is also from the Late Dynastic Period, and the “Gold Coffin”.
Over the last decade, Egypt has recovered approximately 29,000 ancient pieces trafficked out of the country. According to officials, more than 100 of the looted items were recovered in the United States, France, and New Zealand in 2022.
The sarcophagus’ return comes amid calls for Western countries to return artifacts looted during colonization. Following a deal made earlier in 2022 to return over 1,000 cultural artifacts, Germany returned 20 Benin Bronzes looted in the nineteenth century to Nigeria last month.