Save Sekhemka Action Group voices concern as export license deadline passed
Sekhemka statue

CAIRO: The Save Sekhemka Action Group (SSAG) expressed its discontent after deadline for a UK export license deferral of the 4,400 year-old statue has passed with no matching offers received.

“The Save Sekhemka Action Group is saddened that our four year long fight has not borne better fruit. We did rather expect that the ban would be lifted but it still hurts,” Gunilla Loe, Chair of SSAG said in a statement published on the group’s facebook page Friday.

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.)

In October, 2015, British Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has decided to initiate a second deferral period on the export license application of the statue till March 29, 2016.

“We had hoped that after my meeting with His Excellency, Mr Nasser Kamel, the Egyptian Ambassador, on Tuesday that we jointly could delay the lifting of the ban but that was not to be,” said Loe.

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.

“We suspect that the anonymous buyer is a private individual rather than a reputable museum abroad since we feel that in the latter case the ban would either have been lifted sooner or some sensible solution with a British museum would have been found,” said Loe.

“As it is now the statue will disappear into a private collection never to be seen again,” Loe added.

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.

“However, we have not given up altogether; there are  routes we can pursue and the first will be ascertaining that Sekhemka was  legally exported from Egypt in 1850 which will have a bearing on the sale in  2014,” Loe said in the statement.

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.

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