CAIRO: Five stolen ancient Egyptian artifacts have been located in Hungary’s Museum of Fine Arts and a French auction house, the Ministry of Antiquities announced Saturday.
The artifacts were stolen in 2002 during an illicit dig at the site of Tabit Al Geish, south of Sakkara, according to the statement. They were taken out from an entrance gate of an ancient temple.
“Three of the five objects are currently on display at a permanent exhibition at the Fine Arts Museum in Budapest,” said Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim.
The three limestone fragments are from a 4,300 year old door lintel of an ancient Egyptian temple that dates back to the 23rd century B.C. said Ibrahim.
The temple, which was discovered in 2001 by the French Archaeological Mission in Sakkara, belonged to Hunefer, a nobleman who was a high priest and scribe during the reign of Pharaoh Pepi I (2320 B.C – 2275 B.C.) Ibrahim added.
According to Ibrahim, the stolen fragments show reliefs representing Hunefer seated and holding a royal scepter before hieroglyphic inscriptions of his royal titles.
Officials at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest said they have official documents proving that the three artifacts were brought by the museum in 2002 from an auction house. The museum was informed that the objects were brought from Egypt in 1974, said Ibrahim.
“Head of the French Archaeological Mission denied the allegations of the Hungarian Fine Art Museum and confirmed that the three objects were stolen from Sakkara not before 2002,” said Ibrahim.
Ali Al-Asfar, deputy head of the ancient Egyptian section at the Antiquities Ministry told The Cairo Post that he personally visited the tomb of Hunefer upon its discovery in 2002 and that the photos taken for the tomb entrance at that time show the entrance and the door lentil intact and with the five missing pieces.
“How could a reputable establishment like the Fine Arts Museum in Budapest acquire these fragments without listing their provenances upfront?” said Al Asfar.
Head of the antiquities recovery department at the Antiquities Ministry Ali Ahmed told The Cairo Post that the ministry is taking all legal procedures to repatriate the objects to Egypt.
“From May 2012 to December 2013, the Egyptian government had succeeded in repatriating about 245 artifacts, through monitoring websites and auctions that promote the sale of ancient Egyptian artifacts,” said Ahmed.
The other two objects which were stolen from the same tomb are displayed in the brochure of a French auction house based in Paris, Ali added.