CAIRO: An attempt to trade a lower part of a 3,300-year-old statue representing a seated woman was foiled in Akhmim, northwest of Upper Egypt’s governorate of Sohag, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty announced Thursday.
“Personnel of the Tourism and Antiquities Police stumbled upon the half statue buried in the west of Akhmim town. Preliminary investigations indicate it had been illegally excavated during the digging and laying of a concrete foundation of a residential building in the town’s eastern side,” said Damaty.
According to ancient Egyptian history, Akhmim was capital city of the ninth province of Upper Egypt that includes several ancient Egyptian, Islamic and Coptic archaeological sites.
The finding was seized Wednesday and a committee of archaeologists and conservators, formed by the ministry, has confirmed its authenticity, said Damaty, adding that the construction work in the residential building site has been suspended and that the site is being surveyed in anticipation of other artifacts that could be buried underneath.
General Director of Sohag archaeological site, Gamal Abdel Nasser said that the lower part of the statue measures 1.4 meters high and 0.56 meters wide.
“The statue most likely dates back to the reign of the 19th Dynasty pharaoh Ramses II (1303B.C-1227B.C), whose cartouche [oval carving that bears only royal names] and royal titles were found carved at the base of the half statue,” said Abdel Nasser, adding that police are searching for those who excavated the site in order to press charges against them.
Illegal archaeological digging and trade in Egyptian antiquities, particularly in locations such as Luxor, Aswan and Cairo, have flourished due to the security lapse that followed the January 25 Revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Former Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim stated in August that since the outbreak of the 2011 revolution, over 2,000 artifacts were stolen from several museums and archaeological sites across the country.