CAIRO: Despite Egyptian efforts to prevent the auction, Cambridge’s Willingham Auction House in the U.K. has sold a 2,300-year-old Egyptian coffin lid for 12,000 British pounds ($19,500), according to the auction house Facebook page Saturday.
“Since the announcement of the discovery of the lid, the Antiquities Ministry and the Egyptian Embassy in London have been in contact with the Willingham Auction House director to stop the sale of the lid, but it was in vain,” head of the Antiquities Ministry’s Restored Artifacts Department Aly Ahmed told The Cairo Post Saturday.
“We also contacted the family of ‘Tiger’ Sarll, in whose house the lid was found, and tried to convince them to give it back voluntarily, but unfortunately they refused,” Ahmed added.
In early August and during a routine house clearance in Bradwell-on-Sea, Stephen Drake of Willingham Auctions found the coffin lid when he was checking the contents of the property after the death of the owner, Drake said in a video available on the ITV website.
“It was bit like going in a tomb and right in front of me is this mummy… no it is not mummy, it is a coffin top. It was a bit like Indiana Jones,” Drake said.
Sarll, a game hunter and journalist, is believed to have shipped the lid from Egypt to England before he died in 1977. His widow, who used to live in the house, died in 2006, Ahmed said.
“The complexity here is that the archaeological site where the coffin lid was stolen has never been excavated in a legal way or a correct scientific way, which led to the ancient artifact being stolen before it was registered and documented in the Antiquities Ministry,” Ahmed said.
“In this case and according to UNESCO’s 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, Egypt has no official right to claim the recovery of the coffin lid regardless of its provenance, (a document that traces an artifact’s chain of ownership back to its excavation),” Ahmed added.
As of late, several ancient Egyptian artifacts have been put up for sale in auction houses worldwide, including Christie’s, which sold the Northampton Sekhemka statue in July for 15.76 million British pounds.
In July, a German couple who brought a 3,300 year-old painted limestone relief from a British private collection in 1986, agreed voluntarily to donate it back to Egypt, as when they purchased it, they did not know it was a stolen and illegally smuggled artifact.