CAIRO: Two cartouches that were chipped off a chamber in the Great Pyramid and stolen by two German researchers last year have been returned to Egypt, the Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday.
During a trip to Egypt in April 2013, Dominque Goerlitz and Stephan Erdmann, two German amateur archeologists, filmed themselves scraping off pieces of the Great Pyramid.
The video, which aired on their website as a trailer of a documentary called “The Cheops Project,” showed them carving off the cartouche samples from the walls of the burial chamber of the Great Pyramid. It drew the attention of officials at the Antiquities Ministry, which filed a legal notice against them and called on German authorities to retrieve the cartouches, which the researchers had taken with them for analysis in an effort to prove that the Great Pyramids are 15,000 years older than currently believed.
Deputy Foreign Minister for Cultural Relations Olfat Farag handed over the stolen cartouches to an Antiquities Ministry committee, assigned to deposit them at the ministry’s storehouse, the Wednesday statement said.
“We knew about the incident at 4:00 p.m. on the same day during a daily routine inspection after the departure of the last tourist,” General Director of Giza archaeological site, Kamal Waheed told The Cairo Post Thursday.
It is not possible to assign a guardian inside the Pyramid due to the lack of a ventilation system, but the ministry is considering installing surveillance cameras inside the pyramids and other monumental sites, Waheed said.
Six Egyptians were arrested for helping the Germans take the samples without official permission, reported Al-Ahram.
Egypt does not have an extradition treaty with Germany for antiquity crimes, the head of the Restored Artifacts Department at the Antiquities Ministry Aly Ahmed told The Cairo Post Wednesday.
In December, the two researchers, who claimed they had obtained the samples for scientific purposes, said they hoped the antiquities minister and the Egyptian people accept their apology and added they were ready to pay any compensation, MENA reported.
According to Egypt’s protection antiquity Law no. 117 issued in 1983, illegal trade in antiquities can be penalized by prison terms from 15 years to the death penalty, depending on the amount of artifacts stolen and smuggled.