Sunday, September 04, 2011

International smugglers increasingly target Egypt's artifacts

Al Masry Al Youm (Mete Eriksen)

The dismantlement of an international mummy and artifact smuggling ring by US authorities in July raised alarms about the status of stolen Egyptian artifacts in transnational black markets.

The daily newspaper Metro-New York recently reported that three New York men were arrested for smuggling 2000-year-old Egyptian artifacts into the US from the United Arab Emirates by lying custom officials about the contents of their luggage. In this case, the antiquities were worth US$2.5 million.

Experts say the discovered amount is only the tip of the smuggling iceberg.

Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo and a leading expert on animal mummies, says the smuggling begins in various sites in Egypt and ends up in the hands of antiquity dealers in Europe, the US, and some areas in the Gulf.

“By removing a mummy, or indeed any artifact, from its context we are destroying its meaning and what it can contribute to the sum of human knowledge,” says Ikram.

"Also by removing mummies illegally," she adds, "they and their surroundings are being destroyed. Thus, a piece of Egyptian history is lost forever."

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