Eton College, in the south of England, has returned more than 450 antiquities to Egypt, after it was realised that many had probably been illegally exported. Last month we reported that the main part of the school’s collection, bequeathed to the school by Major William Myers in 1899, is going on long-term loan to Birmingham University in the UK and Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University in the US (The Art Newspaper, May 2009, p7).
The returned antiquities had been donated to Eton over a century later, in 2006, by the family of the late Ron Davey, a London-based Egyptologist. He in turn had received most of them as a bequest from his friend, Peter Webb, who had died in 1992.
When the antiquities arrived at Eton three years ago, they were examined by curator Dr Nicholas Reeves. The donation comprised 454 items, including ushabti figurines, beads and amulets, textile fragments, potsherds, coins and other small objects.
Dr Reeves was worried to find that much of the Webb-Davey donation had been acquired in Egypt during the period 1972-88, and there was no surviving documentary evidence that proper export procedures had been followed. This was after the 1970 Unesco Convention on illicit trade in cultural property. The remaining Webb-Davey antiquities seem to have been purchased in good faith on the London market during the same period, but no information was available on how they had left Egypt.
See the above page for more. See Dr Reeves's own statement on the subject here.