Thursday, March 13, 2008

Antiquity smugglers arrested


Egyptian police confiscated four ancient mummies on Wednesday and arrested three antiquities smugglers who had stolen them from an ancient graveyard, a security official said.

Wrapped in layers of linen and decorated with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, the mummies were found in the southern province of Minya, 135 miles south of Cairo, the official said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press.

The three smugglers also were allegedly found with 10 small ancient statues. They confessed that they had planned to sell the objects to antiquities brokers, the official said.

The mummies are of a child and three men, but no further details were available, the official said. Archeologists were summoned to check the mummies, he added.


Tourist police in the town of Fayyum, south of Cairo, arrested the men as they sought to sell the four mummies and other looted artefacts on the international antiquities black market.

The source said the mummies appeared to have been stolen from an illegal dig carried out by the men near Minya, 120km south of Fayum, and are likely previously unknown to antiquities authorities.

"One of the mummies is of a child, the other three are of men, all covered with linen and plaster," the source said, adding that another 10 small statues and a Pharaonic sarcophagus decorated with hieroglyphs were also seized.

"The smugglers were arrested before they could sell the mummies to antiquities traders for about $5.3m," the source said.

The police are now trying to work out exactly how old the artefacts are and who the mummies are. The smugglers face a minimum of three years in jail.

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