Nevine El-Aref reveals how 200 genuine objects from the ancient Egyptian era to modern times held in a bank vault for decades were handed over to the Supreme Council of Antiquities
Early this week, in a scene which could have been taken from The Da Vinci Code, the Ahly National Bank of Egypt (ANBE) handed over to the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) 200 artefacts that had been deposited there since early in the 20th century.
This collection includes pieces from the ancient Egyptian, Graeco-Roman, Coptic and Islamic eras. Among them are limestone statuary heads of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman deities such as Horus, Hathor and Ptah, as well as Roman terracotta figurines and 20 Islamic and modern coins, including gold coins.
Hussein Bassir, head of the legal and technical committee that checked the authenticity of the objects, says the most significant item in the collection was the diary of an Armenian man called Oying Alexanian which contained the names and telephone numbers of antiquities dealers of the time, as well as the number of antiquities sale contracts. "These two things gave us a vision of how the antiquities trade in Egypt was rum at the time, especially that antiquities trading was legal," Abdel-Bassir said.
The story of how these artefacts came to light began several years ago when an Armenian antiquities dealer and a British collector, who both lived in Cairo during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, rented two vaults at the ANBE to store some of their antiquities collection.