The rescue of an ancient Egyptian mummy's sarcophagus this month from alleged smugglers in New York — the first time authorities say an international artifacts' smuggling ring was dismantled within the United States — sounds more like the plot of a movie than reality.
Amazingly, however, mummy smuggling not only still happens today, it was once so common that enough mummies were available to be ground up and sold as powder, archaeologists reveal.
"Mummy powder was something you could buy in pharmacies up to 1920, because people thought it was a type of medication," said Egyptologist Regine Schulz, curator of ancient art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.
Today's black market for mummy and other antiquities is in the billions of dollars, though exact numbers aren't known. Besides not having a clear bead on the breadth of trafficking in Egyptian artifacts, scientists and officials say it's often difficult to protect the precious artifacts as the Egyptian desert is so vast.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Antiquities black market revealed
LiveScience (Charles Q. Choi)