CAIRO (AP) – A 3,000-year-old wooden sarcophagus confiscated at the Miami airport was returned to Egypt Saturday, as the antiquities chief pressed forward with his campaign to recover Egypt’s stolen heritage.
The brightly painted sarcophagus dates back to the 21st Dynasty (1070-945 B.C.) and belonged to a noble called Imesy, a Culture Ministry statement said.
Customs officials at Miami International Airport seized the coffin in October 2008 from a shipment coming from Spain after the importer could not present proper documentation to prove ownership.
An investigation found the coffin had been stolen from Egypt 126 years ago and taken to Spain before it was shipped to the U.S.
Egypt’s antiquities chief, Zahi Hawass, led a legal campaign to have the coffin returned in November 2009 and the importer dropped its claim.
Hawass traveled to Washington on Wednesday to receive the sarcophagus and bring it back to Cairo.
Hawass announced in Saturday’s statement that Egypt will also take back a number of other antiquities illegally shipped to the U.S. The items, which are now being held in New York, include wooden coffins, pottery and ancient art pieces.
Thousands of antiquities were spirited out of the country during Egypt’s colonial period and afterward by archaeologists, adventurers and thieves.
Hawass has made recovering the stolen artifacts the centerpiece of his tenure as antiquities chief.
In one of his most high-profile efforts, Hawass has formally demanded the return of the bust of Queen Nefertiti from a Berlin museum after he received documents he says back his claim the statue is there illegally. The museum has refused to return the 3,300-year-old limestone bust. Hawass said last year that the director of Berlin’s Egyptian Museum presented documents revealing that the German excavator of the statue drew up fraudulent papers to take it out of Egypt in 1913.