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Tutankhamun world tour sparks debate among antiquities experts

German specialists in restoration work on antiquities in glass and metal Christian Eckmann works on the restoration process of the golden mask of Tutankhamun at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. (File photo: AFP)
CAIRO: Plans to embark on a worldwide tour to showcase 166 artifacts belonging to Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun set for next month have sparked a debate among antiquities experts, a news report said Sunday.
The exhibition is scheduled to tour seven foreign countries, starting from Los Angeles in the United States on March 23 and will continue over the next 7 years, Egypt Antiquities Minister Khalid Al-Anani said.
The exhibition includes 166 artifacts, excluding the basic pieces of Tutankhamun, Anani added. The full collection of Tutankhamun contains about 5,000 pharaonic pieces, he explained, which are scheduled to be displayed at the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum by the end of this year.
Egypt’s Heritage Task Force said that the duration of the overseas show is 7 years, and it is expected to generate close to $50mn.
But academics and scholars from within and outside the Antiquities Ministry are reportedly campaigning against the exhibition over concerns the monuments may be falsified, stolen or replaced.
A Facebook page has been created to call on President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to intervene and open an investigation into the exhibition.
Monika Hanna, a member of the campaign, called the exhibition a “catastrophe,” according to Al-Masry El-Youm newspaper.
She said the law of archaeological artifacts allows the rental of duplicates, not originals, and leasing to scientific bodies or museums, not private companies as per the terms of this contract.
She noted that the “insurance value of the golden coffin of Tutankhamun is low,” amounting to only $5 million, and said the company may pay it to Egypt and claim it was stolen.
She expressed concern over the fact that the monuments will remain outside Egypt for 7 years, and wondered if the inauguration of the Grand Egyptian Museum will be delayed until that time.
Gharib Sonbol, Head of the Central Administration for Restoration and a member of the Foreign Exhibitions Committee, said that an imprint was prepared for all the artifacts that are scheduled to travel to ensure that the pieces will not falsified or replaced.

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