US returns 2,700-year-old sarcophagus stolen from Egypt

Over the course of a decade, Cairo has recovered over 29,000 stolen antiquities, and this is not the least of them. One of the largest pharaonic wooden sarcophagi ever discovered, illegally taken out of Egypt and until recently on display in a US museum, was returned to Cairo on Monday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri announced.

“There are two kinds of sarcophagi: those from the royal remains and those from the remains of nobles, this one belonged to a noble,” said Mostafa Waziri, director of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

2,700 years old

The 2.94 meter long and 90 centimeter wide sarcophagus, with the face painted green, dates from the late Pharaonic period almost 2,700 years ago and was discovered in central Egypt.

In recent months, Egypt has announced several major discoveries, mainly in the necropolis of Saqqara, south of Cairo. She unveiled more than 300 sarcophagi and 150 bronze statues in 2021 and 2022, many dating back more than 3,000 years.

An asset for tourism

The country is counting on these new discoveries to revive tourism, badly hit by Covid-19. This sector, which employs two million people and generates more than 10% of GDP, has been at a standstill since the 2011 Arab Spring.

The Egyptian authorities have been promising for months the imminent opening of its “Grand Egyptian Museum”, near the Giza Plateau, without having a date for its inauguration. Many predicted this in 2022, the bicentenary of Frenchman Jean-Fran├žois Champollion’s decipherment of the Rosetta Stone and the centenary of the discovery of the child pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb.

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