Egypt Reclaims 3,400-Year-Old Stolen Statue of King Ramses II

By Reuters
April 22, 2024Science & Tech
Egypt Reclaims 3,400-Year-Old Stolen Statue of King Ramses II
Visitors walk behind a granite sphinx in the likeness of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III (1479–1425 BC) placed outside the entrance to the Egyptian Museum in the centre of Egypt's capital Cairo on Oct. 11, 2022. (Amir Makar/AFP via Getty Images)

CAIRO—Egypt welcomed home a 3,400-year-old statue depicting the head of King Ramses II after it was stolen and smuggled out of the country more than three decades ago, the country’s antiquities ministry said on Sunday.

The statue is now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo but not on display. The artefact will be restored, the ministry said in a statement.

The statue was stolen from the Ramses II temple in the ancient city of Abydos in Southern Egypt more than three decades ago. The exact date is not known, but Shaaban Abdel Gawad, who heads Egypt’s antiquities repatriation department, said the piece is estimated to have been stolen in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Egyptian authorities spotted the artefact when it was offered for sale in an exhibition in London in 2013. It moved to several other countries before reaching Switzerland, according to the antiquities ministry.

“This head is part of a group of statues depicting King Ramses II seated alongside a number of Egyptian deities,” Mr. Abdel Gawad said.

Ramses II is one of ancient Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs. Also known as Ramses the Great, he was the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt and ruled from 1279–1213 B.C.

Egypt collaborated with Swiss authorities to establish its rightful ownership. Switzerland handed over the statue to the Egyptian embassy in Bern last year, but it was only recently that Egypt brought the artefact home.

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