1 November 2009
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York returned a piece of a red granite naos of the 12th Dynasty king Amenemhat I (c1991 – 1962BC) to Egypt last Thursday. Culture Minister Farouk Hosni announced the return Monday, adding that the piece was purchased by the Museum from an antiquities collector in New York last October in order to return it to Egypt.
Zahi Hawwas, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), described this action by the Metropolitan Museum as “a great deed,” as this is the first time a museum has bought an object for the purpose of returning it to its country of origin. This action, asserted Hawwass, highlights the Metropolitan Museum’s devotion to return illegal antiquities to their homelands. “It is also a kind gesture from the newly appointed Met director Thomas Campbell,” Dr Hawwas said.
The story, according to Dr Hawwas, began last October when Dorthea Arnold, the curator of the Egyptian section at the Metropolitan Museum, wrote an official letter to Dr Hawwass, stating the Met’s desire to offer Egypt the piece. It is a part of the base of Amenemhat I’s naos, the rest of the naos is now in the Ptah temple of Karnak in Luxor.
The piece of the base was presented to the Metropolitan Museum by a collector in New York, who claimed he bought it in the 1970s. Dr Arnold discovered that the granite fragment must join with the naos in Karnak. An article with a drawing in the Annales de Service Vol. 3 and a photograph taken in the early 20th century by French Egyptologist Georges Legrain showed that the naos base in Karnak had been missing its corner since at least 1902.
The Met successfully negotiated with the owner of the piece for the transfer of the naos corner to the Metropolitan Museum, which would in turn send it to Egypt.
The piece, which arrived to Cairo on Thursday, will undergo restoration in order to return it to its original place in the naos in the Ptah temple at Karnak.