CAIRO: Egypt has halted all dealings with UK’s Northampton Museum over its “unethical role” in the sale of the Sekhemka statue, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh Al Damaty announced Saturday.
“The sale of the statue is an indelible stain on the museum’s reputation and is a moral crime against world heritage in general and the Egyptian heritage in particular,” Damaty said in a press conference held at the Antiquities Ministry Saturday.
He called on Egyptian businessmen and Egyptian expats in the UK to initiate a serious fundraising campaign to re-buy the 4,500 year-old statue otherwise “the irreplaceable masterpiece will never to be seen on public display again.”
In July 2014 the Northampton Borough Council (NBC) sold the statue of the Egyptian royal scribe Sekhemka, by auction at Christie’s in London to help fund an extension to the town’s museum. The statue was sold to an anonymous buyer for £15.76 million ($20 million.)
The motion infuriated a wide range of people inside and outside Northampton and caused outrage among historians and Egyptologists. It also raised a number of ethical and legal questions arising from the sale of the statue.
A temporary export ban, placed on the statue by British Culture Minister Ed Vaizey expired on July 29 which means the buyer will be free to legally obtain the Sekhemka statue.
However, The British government announced the export ban deadline has been extended to midday Friday Aug. 28.
The painted limestone statue, measuring 30 inches high and 12.5 inches wide, belonged to an ancient Egyptian court official and scribe during the fifth dynasty (2400 B.C–2300 B.C.) It was excavated from the Sakkara archaeological site, 26 kilometers south of the Giza Pyramids.
“The statue was originally acquired by Spencer Compton, the second Marquis of Northampton during his trip to Egypt in 1849 to 1850,” former head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Abdel Halim Nour el-Din was quoted by Al-Ahram.
It was given to the Northampton Museum either by the third or fourth Marquis of Northampton prior to 1880, Nour el-Din added.