Egypt has reached the end of its rope with the Louvre museum, which refuses to return Egyptian artifacts.
Egypt said Wednesday its antiquities department severed ties with France’s Louvre museum because it has refused to return what are described as stolen artifacts, one of the country’s most aggressive attempts yet to reclaim relics from some of the world’s leading Egyptology collections.
The ruling means that no archaeological expeditions connected to the France’s premier museum will be allowed to work in Egypt. Already Egypt has suspended an excavation sponsored by the Louvre at the massive necropolis of Saqqara and canceled a lecture in Egypt by a former curator of the museum.
“The Louvre Museum refused to return four archaeological reliefs to Egypt that were stolen during the 1980s from the tomb of the noble Tetaki,” near the famed temple city of Luxor, said a statement quoting Supreme Council of Antiquities head Zahi Hawass.
Hawass’ office described the four fragments as paintings of the nobleman’s journey to the afterlife chipped from the walls of the tomb by thieves in the 1980s.
Christiane Ziegler, the former director of the Louvre’s Egyptology department, acquired the four fragments last year and displayed them, said the SCA. She will now not be allowed to give a scheduled lecture in Egypt.
Hawass has made several high profile requests from the world’s museum for the return of Egyptian artifacts.
At the top of his list are the bust of Nefertiti — wife of the famed monotheistic Pharaoh Akhenaten — and the Rosetta Stone, a basalt slab with an inscription that was the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics. The bust is in Berlin’s Egyptian Museum; the Rosetta Stone is in the British Museum in London.
In one of the more high profile and acrimonious fights, Hawass has repeatedly requested the return of a 3,200-year-old golden mask of a noblewoman from the St. Louis Art Museum.