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Egypt Hints at Lawsuit against Christie's after Sale of Tutankhamun Relic

Egypt Hints at Lawsuit against Christie's after Sale of Tutankhamun Relic

Saturday, 6 July, 2019 - 05:15
3,000-year-old stone sculpture of the famed boy pharaoh Tutankhamun
Cairo - Fathiya al-Dakhakhni
Egypt's antiquities ministry is expected to hold a special meeting on Monday to discuss its next steps after a 3,000-year-old quartzite head of Egyptian "Boy King" Tutankhamun was auctioned off for $6 million in London.

"The Egyptian government will take all the necessary measures to recover Egyptian antiquities that left Egypt illegally," the ministry said in statement.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Egyptian authorities will follow up the case through the UN cultural body UNESCO.

Egypt would continue to press the buyer and others for the work to be returned, he said.

Christie's auction house sold the 28.5-centimeter relic on Thursday for £4,746,250 ($5,970,000, 5,290,000 euros). No information about the buyer was disclosed.

Former Egyptian antiquities minister Zahi Hawass told Asharq Al-Awsat that Cairo should task an Egyptian attorney in London or any other person that would be willing to file a lawsuit against Christie's.

“We will find that person,” he said.

The Egyptian foreign ministry had asked the UK Foreign Office and UNSECO to step in and halt the sale.

Christie's argued that Egypt had never before expressed the same level of concern about an item whose existence has been "well known and exhibited publicly" for many years.

"The object is not, and has not been, the subject of an investigation," Christie's said in a statement.

The auction house has published a chronology of how the relic changed hands between European art dealers over the past 50 years.

Its oldest attribution from 1973-74 places it in the collection of Prince Wilhelm of Thurn and Taxi in modern-day Germany.

This account's veracity was called into doubt by a report from the Live Science news site last month suggesting that Wilhelm never owned the piece.

Wilhelm was "not a very art-interested person," his niece Daria told the news site.

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