The ancient Egyptian gold coffin of a high-ranking priest that was stolen and sold to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art with fake import papers was returned home by authorities investigating international antiquities trafficking.
The mummy-shaped coffin of Nedjemankh, dating back to the 1st century BC, will be shipped back to the people of Egypt, where it will be displayed at the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., the district attorney, on Wednesday was joined by Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Hassan Shoukry and US Homeland Security Investigations Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh, during a press conference to ‘repatriate an extraordinary artifact to its country of origin.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (second and third from right respectively) examined the gold coffin of Nedjemankh following a news conference announcing its return to the people of Egypt in New York.
The mummy-shaped coffin of Nedjemankh, dating back to the 1st century BC, was stolen and sold to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art with fake import papers. It will now go back to Egypt, where it will be displayed at the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
“This is an active investigation in New York, France, Germany, and Egypt,” a spokesman for Vance told DailyMail.com.
The almost 6-foot-long coffin from around 1971 was made of wood, gold, wool, and other materials, and had been on display at the Met until February, when the district attorney’s office, as part of an international group investigating antiquities trafficking, came forward with evidence indicating the prized artifact was stolen.
The Metropolitan Museum decided to “review and reassess its acquisitions process.”
A spokesman for the museum earlier this year identified the art dealer in Paris as Christophe Kunicki, and said that the Met planned to consider ‘all means’ for the recovery of the money it paid, reported The New York Times.
A museum spokesman and Kunicki did not immediately respond when DailyMail.com reached out for comment.
Authorities say the coffin, which no longer holds the remains of Nedjemankh, had been stolen during the aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 from the country’s Ministry of Antiquities.
The elaborately decorated coffin of the high-ranking priest Nedjemankh had already been viewed by nearly a half-million visitors at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York since it was acquired as part of a major exhibition on ancient art that showcased artifacts stolen from Egypt.
It was smuggled out of Egypt and transported through the United Arab Emirates to Germany, where it was restored, and later delivered to France before ending up at the Met.
Nedjemankh was the high-ranking priest of the ram-headed god Heryshef of Herakleopolis.
The gold on his coffin’s exterior, because of its permanent nature, represented Nedjemankh’s connection to the Egyptian gods and the divine afterlife, according to the news site ARTFIX Daily.
Activities say the coffin (above), which no longer holds the remains of Nejemankh, had been stolen in the aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 from the country’s Ministry of Antiquities region.
The coffin (purchased above in a shopping container) was smuggled out of Egypt and transported through the United Arab Emirates to Germany, where it was restored and later delivered to France before ending up at the Met.
Some unique features include thin sheets of silver foil on the interior (shown above). Some of the sheets under the coffin’s lid were intended to add more protection to Nejemankh’s face.
According to ancient texts, the use of gold in the coffin would have helped the deceased ascend into the next life.
The coffin’s elaborate exterior features scenes and texts in thick gold relief that were intended to give Nejemankh protection and guide him on his journey from death to the eternal life as a transfigured spirit.
Ancient Egyptians considered precious metals to represent the flesh and bones of the gods, or the sun and the moon, reports ARTFIX Daily.
More specifically, they were the eyes of the cosmic deity Horus, whom Nejemankh served.
Vance during the repatriation gave a special nod to his office’s ‘Antiquities Trafficking Unit.’
To date, the unit has recovered ‘several thousand stolen antiquities collectively valued at more than $150 million, many of which have been returned to their rightful owners and repatriated to their countries of origin,’ his office said in a released statement.
The repatriated artifacts include the marble Lebanese statues; a Roman mosaic excavated from the Shipyards of Nemi; an Etruscan reclining figure from the site of an ancient necropolis known as the ‘City of the Dead’; a marble sarcophagus from the site of a historic necropolis called the ‘City of the Dead’; a marble sarcophagus fragment; an ancient Indian stupa fragment; and a pair of 12th-century Indian statues.
The restituted artifacts include three marble Lebanese statues; a Roman mosaic; an Etruscan sarcophagus; a marble sarcophagus fragment; an ancient Indian stupa fragment; and a pair of 12th-century Indian statues, among others.