Cultural Postcards + [UK]

Near East: 76 Egyptian antiquities for auction at Christie’s
A set of 76 ancient Egyptian artifacts will go up for auction Oct. 1, Christie’s Auction House in London announced Monday.

76 Egyptian antiquities for auction at Christie’s
An Egyptian limestone stele fragment, New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, Reign of Ramesses II, 
c.1279-1213 BC [Credit: Christie's Images Ltd 2012]

With estimates ranging from $1,250 to $315,000, the sale, which includes 189 total artifacts dating from the 4th millennium B.C. to the 7th century A.D., will take place at 8 King Street, St. James’s, Christie’s stated on its website.

Among the Egyptian artifacts up for auction is a painted wood figure of an official who lived during the old kingdom, 6th dynasty (2300 B.C. -2181 B.C.) Another item for sale is an Egyptian limestone relief fragment, which dates back to the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten, new kingdom, 18th dynasty, (1353 B.C-1335 B.C.)

Christie’s catalogue includes a provenance, a document that traces an artifact’s chain of ownership back to its excavation, for most of the artifacts up for auction.

Political turmoil in Egypt since the January 25 Revolution in 2011 and the subsequent security lapse left the country’s cultural heritage vulnerable to looting. In spite of the efforts of the Egyptian government in tracking artifacts smuggled outside Egypt and in auction houses abroad, the issue is still unsettled.

In Cairo’s upscale district of Zamalek, a team of government employees in the Antiquities Ministry spend hours browsing the internet in search of stolen artifacts that have been put up for sale in auction houses, and sales websites all over the world.

“There is no record of how many antiquities have gone missing, as many were taken from illegal digs, and there is no way to know that they even exist,” Ali Ahmed, head of Antiquities Ministry’s Restored Artifacts Dept., told The Cairo Post Tuesday.

The ministry is aware of the Egyptian artifacts scheduled for sale Oct. 1 and is taking legal action against the sale in order to repatriate them, Ali said.

“Most of the looted artifacts that have been surfacing on the internet are not registered, because they were excavated by criminal gangs, not by specialists,” Ahmed said.

Egypt has recovered about 1,400 artifacts but still it faces a struggle to get back all that has been lost, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty was quoted by Al-Ahram in August.

“It is impossible to provide an accurate number of the artifacts that have been stolen since the January 25 Revolution,” Head of the Museums Sector at the Ministry of Antiquities Ahmed Sharaf told The Cairo Post.

“We are able to specify artifacts looted from museums and storerooms as they are registered,” said Sharaf, adding that tomb robbers penetrated “several archaeological sites and used saws, bulldozers, shovels or simply their hands to cut parts of the tombs.”

On July 12, despite Egyptian efforts to prevent the auction, the Northampton Sekhemka statue was sold for £15.76 million at  Christie’s.

Author: Rany Mostafa | Source: The Cairo Post [Spetmber 02, 2014]