CAIRO: The Egyptian Foreign Ministry says its embassy in London addressed the British Foreign Office and Christie’s auction house to stop the sale of the head of a statue of Tutankhamun, and return it to Egypt.
Christie’s expects the head to reach upwards of £4 million at auction, scheduled for July 4.
The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities has also addressed UNESCO to stop the auction. Dr. Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Arab News he wanted the auctioneers to prove the head had been removed from the country legally, which he doubted they could.
He added that the exit of the head, supposedly from the Karnak temple complex in Luxor, was shrouded in uncertainty.
“We will stop this auction and demand the return of this piece immediately,” he said. Christie’s, though, insists that the sale of the 3,000 year old head is legal.
The St. James-based auction house suggested that the head, along with a wooden sarcophagus and multiple other artifacts also going on sale, were previously owned by the Munich-based collector Heinz Herner, and before that by Austrian dealer Joseph Mesina, who obtained the head from the collection of Prince Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis in the mid 1970s.
In January, Egypt took possession of a stone tablet belonging to the pharaoh Amenhotep I, which had been put up for sale at another London auction house after being illegally smuggled out of Egypt.
The Ministry of Antiquities said it had recovered the piece after searches on global auction sites on the internet brought the tablet to its attention.
Archaeologist Shaaban Abdul Jawad told Arab News the Egyptian state was taking a keen interest in the sale of potentially looted ancient Egyptian items, often tracking them to international auctions to return and preserve the nation’s cultural heritage.