Looting Matters: Why Did the Met Purchase an Object to Return It to Egypt?

Fri Oct 30, 2009 12:01pm EDT

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SWANSEA, Wales, Oct. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- David Gill, archaeologist, reflects on
the decision by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art to return a granite
fragment to Egypt.

The Met has announced that it will be returning a granite fragment from a
shrine (or naos) to Egypt on Thursday October 29, 2009. The piece bears the
name of the 12th Dynasty (Middle Kingdom) pharaoh Amenemhat I (1985-1956 BC).
The shrine was linked to the Egyptian god Amun. Dorothea Arnold, the Lila
Acheson Wallace Chairman of the Museum's Egyptian Art Department, spotted that
the fragment appeared to come from Karnak. Further research with Adela
Oppenheim demonstrated that it came from the corner of a naos. 

This praiseworthy action has a surprising twist. The shrine fragment had been
on loan to the Met from a private collector although it had never been placed
on public display. Instead of suggesting that the present proprietor return
the object to Egypt, the Met took the surprising decision to purchase the
piece "in order to take official possession of the work and return it promptly
and unencumbered to Egypt".

The identity of the collector has not been declared. It is not clear how the
purchase was funded, especially given the present pressure on the museum's

Thomas P. Campbell, the Met's Director, commented on the repatriation: "Though
the fragment is small, its return is a larger symbol of the Museum's deep
respect for the importance of protecting Egypt's cultural heritage and the
long history of warm relations the Museum enjoys with Egypt and the Supreme
Council of Antiquities."

The return to Egypt helps to restore the reputation of the Met in the wake of
the negotiated transfer of the Euphronios krater to Italy in 2006. 

Earlier in October, the Louvre in Paris agreed to return some reliefs to Egypt
that appeared to have been removed from a tomb at Thebes.


SOURCE  Looting Matters

David Gill of Looting Matters, d.w.j.gill@swansea.ac.uk
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