Egypt launches campaign to stop sale of Pharaonic statue in Britain

Aug 28, 2015 Egypt’s antiquities minister recently called for $25 million to be raised to buy back a 4,500-year-old ancient Egyptian Sekhema statue, which was sold at an auction in Britain last year to an anonymous overseas buyer.

The 30-inch painted limestone statue, which dates from the 24th century B.C was sold in July 2014 at a private auction in London for £15.76 million.  The sale of the statue attracted stiff opposition from pressure groups in Britain, leading to a year-long export ban on the statue.

The ban which was due to expire on July 29, received an extension by the British government. According to authorities, the extension was aimed at giving a final opportunity for buyers to put forward a serious expression of interest to keep the Sekhemka statue in the UK.

During a news conference in Cairo, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh El-Damaty called on Egyptians home and abroad to contribute to the funds.

“We call on Egyptians abroad and lovers of Egyptian art, who previously requested time, to collect donations to purchase the artifact and return it to Egypt, to undertake this task… Human heritage is in the ownership of museums, and that is ethical and respected. It must not be destroyed through the sale of these collections, which might go to someone ignorant of their value, which might go to someone’s personal collections, who may not understand their artistic value,”

The director-general of the repatriation department at the antiquities ministry condemned the Northampton Museum for putting the statue up for sale in the first place.

“There is a museum selling an artefact. That is not the role of a museum. Museums are for spreading culture, knowledge and civilisations. If the museum was undergoing financial crisis, it should not have sold a piece of antiquities, because if it sells the artefact, it goes from the public domain into the private domain,” Ali Ahmed Ali said.

Antiquities are a major tourist attraction in Egypt and with the sale of the Sekhemka statue; authorities have expressed worry that it could set a precedent for the sale of other archaeological artifacts.

“This was the first time this happened, but afterwards there was another attempt in the U.S. but the sale was stopped. There was an archaeological artefact originating from an area called Al-Haraga in Middle Egypt. The sale was stopped, but it followed the Northampton sale of the Sekhemka statue,” Ali said.

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