Imagine a scenario where you lend your favourite book to a friend. But not just any book, one that you really cherish and is priceless in your perspective. Now, visualise your friend giving that book to a complete stranger without your permission. How would you feel? Would you be angry or indifferent that he gave away one of your treasured possessions without even asking you? If you chose angry, then you now feel a fraction of our country’s state of mind in its current attempt to veto the sale of 32 priceless Egyptian artefacts in an upcoming auction in London.
Founded in 1766, Christie’s Auctions & Private Sales in London offers premier auctions and sales of the finest merchandise. Since it scheduled the selling of 32 artefacts on their online calendar for July, the Egyptian government has been in a deep state of outrage. We wanted to know what these relics were exactly, so we checked Christie’s website. We came across a few precious antiquities, including an Egyptian Bronze Cat (estimate: 80k-120k GBP) and an Egyptian Polychrome Wood Coffin for Khamour (180k-220k). The most valuable relic that we were shocked to discover on the list was the 3,000-year-old quartzite head of King Tutankhamun, which is expected to fetch more than 4 million GBP, according to The National.
A few days ago, Egypt Today stated that Egypt had renewed its demand to Christie’s and UNESCO for the repatriation of all the artefacts, after its initial request on the 10th of June, especially the head of the golden Pharaoh. In a statement by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, the Standing Committee for Antiquities of Egypt expressed “great objection to the auction halls (Christie’s) in the British capital, London, for putting artefacts belonging to the Egyptian civilisation for sale”. Shaaban Abdel-Gawad, Supervisor-General of the Antiquities Repatriation Department at the Ministry of Antiquities, added, “If it is proven that any piece was illegally smuggled abroad, all legal procedures will be taken with Interpol, and in coordination with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign affairs, to stop its sale and ensure its return.” He added, “We will not allow anyone to sell Egyptian artefacts.”
What is the auction house’s response to all of this? “We would not offer for sale any object where there was concern over ownership or export. The work has been widely exhibited and published, and we have alerted the Egyptian embassy, so they are aware of the sale.” They added, “There is a long-standing and legitimate market for works of art of the ancient world, in which Christie’s has participated for generations, and it strictly adheres to bilateral treaties and international laws with respect to cultural property and patrimony.”
We lost a devastating amount of 32,638 artefacts in 2017. We can’t afford to lose any more relics of our heritage. Let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best!