The Metropolitan Museum of Art, perhaps America’s most esteemed art museum, has given up a stolen antiquity from its vast collections: The Gold Coffin of Nedjemankh.
The ancient gilded coffin, which was acquired by the Metropolitan in 2017 and was featured in an exhibit of artifacts from ancient Egypt, is on its way back to Egypt after it was determined to be a looted antiquity.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry held a repatriation ceremony in New York Wednesday to show off the glittering 2,100-year-old coffin of an ancient Egyptian priest called Nedjemankh (neh’-jeh-MAHNK’).
Vance told reporters that New Yorkers, who come from all over the world, are especially sensitive to preserving cultural heritage. He hailed the cooperation between New York prosecutors with Homeland Security investigators that led to the recovery and return of the coffin.
“Returning stolen cultural treasures to their countries of origin is at the core of our mission to stop the trafficking of stolen antiquities,” Vance said. “I am honored to repatriate this extraordinary artifact back to the people of Egypt, and I thank my office’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit as well as our partners at HSI New York for their diligence in this investigation.”
Vance’s office said the coffin, made in Egypt between approximately 150 and 50 B.C.E., once held the remains of a high-ranking priest Nedjemankh. It was stolen from the Minya region of Egypt in the aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution in October 2011, and was then smuggled out of Egypt.
D.A. Vance: The Gold Coffin of Nedjemankh dates back somewhere between 150 and 50 B.C.The coffin was actually buried in Egypt for more than two thousand years, until it was looted in 2011. pic.twitter.com/wBCIlQPHVb— Cyrus Vance, Jr. (@ManhattanDA) September 25, 2019
It was transported through the United Arab Emirates to Germany, where it was restored, and to France, where the Met bought the piece from a Paris art dealer in July 2017 for about $4 million. The museum was given fraudulent documents, including a forged 1971 Egyptian export license, prosecutors said.
The Met then made it the centerpiece of an Egyptian exhibit. In February, Vance’s office executed a search warrant and seized the coffin from the museum, as part of an ongoing joint investigation with law enforcement partners in Egypt, Germany, and France.
The Met has since apologized to Egypt. Prosecutors said that once presented with evidence of the theft, the museum fully cooperated with the investigation. The repatriated coffin, with an estimated value of about $4 million, is expected to be put on public display in Egypt.
Prosecutors say the Antiquities Trafficking Unit has recovered several thousand stolen antiquities collectively valued at more than $150 million, many of which have been returned to their rightful owners and repatriated to their countries of origin.
Read more from source USAToday