The unceasing mysteries of Egypt's antiquities

CAIRO: A Brussels museum will hand over to Egypt a limestone relief that had been smuggled out of the country more than 30 years ago, an Egyptian antiquities official said Monday.

The Royal Museum of Art and History in Brussels, Belgium, agreed to return the relief, which was stolen from the Giza tomb of a 5th dynasty priest, Senenu, said Zahi Hawass, the secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. In return, an archaeological mission belonging to the museum will be allowed to continue its work in Egypt, he said.

"Exerting scientific pressure is the most important way of getting back our stolen antiquities," Hawass said. "We will start a fierce battle with the museums and the private collectors who have these antiquities. We won't scientifically deal with those who don't return them."  

In recent years, Egypt has been trying, with some success, to secure the return of artifacts stolen or smuggled out of the country. Two of the biggest treasures whose return Hawass repeatedly has demanded remain outside the country, a 3,000-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti that is in a Berlin museum and the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum.

"Egypt is very serious about reclaiming its antiquities," he said, adding that a delegation from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) will fly to Brussels next week to reclaim the relief.

The relief is one of three pieces discovered in 1965 in Senenu's tomb and smuggled out of the country, said an SCA release. The SCA did not say exactly when it was believed to have been taken out of Egypt, but said the museum had bought the piece from a private Belgian collector in 1973.

The limestone relief is divided into two registers: the upper one showing two female figures and the lower showing the same females with a small boy, the release said. It was restored in the 1980s and since then has been permanently exhibited in the Old Kingdom room of the Egyptian department.

Hawass said officials were compiling a list of other antiquities stolen from Egypt after 1972 in a bid to bring them back. In the last three years, Egypt reclaimed more than 3,000 pieces, he said.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian mummy may be responsible for the sinking of the ocean cruise liner the Titanic, a new documentary from the Discovery Civilization channel will argue a week on Friday.

The documentary investigates the latest theory that the mummy of an Egyptian princess encased in the British Museum may have caused one of the most famous tragedies at sea in modern history.

"Museum Mysteries: British Museum" explores the supernatural powers of the unlucky mummy-case containing the remains of the princess of Amen-Ra. Myths and mysteries surround the vast collection of Egyptian antiquities found in the British Museum and the mummy of princess Amen-Ra is believed to have caused many injuries, deaths and large scale disasters. It is a cursed mummy as it were - a spirit causing trouble from the beyond the grave.

The documentary also investigates a gruesome revelation: the murder of Lindow Man whose body was naturally mummified by lying in a swamp for 2,000 years. The body is remarkably preserved but forensic tests have shown that the man met a violent death as his skull was fractured in two places and his throat slit before being thrown into the bog. The documentary discusses whether the killing was a typical routine sacrifice made to the gods or murder.

In a final twist of myth and mystery, the program analyzes the enigmatic rock crystal skull, believed by some to hold the key to the destiny of mankind. - The Daily Star with agencies

"Museum Mysteries: British Museum" will be shown on Discovery Civilization on the Showtime network on Friday May 6 at 21:15 KSA. 





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