SWANSEA, Wales, Oct. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- David Gill, archaeologist, reflects on the recent action by Egyptian authorities who are seeking the return of tomb reliefs from the Louvre, Paris.
The Musee National du Louvre in Paris acquired four ancient Egyptian funerary reliefs in 2000 and 2003. It appears they were derived from the Tomb of Tetaki at Thebes. In 2008 Egyptian archaeologists reinvestigated the tomb and questions were raised about the source of the Louvre's acquisitions. It has been reported that Dr. Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, subsequently asked for the return of the reliefs but this request was refused by museum authorities. Hawass claims that the pieces were hacked out of the tomb in the 1980s.
The Tomb of Tetaki was first explored by Lord Carnarvon in 1908. Carnarvon was later joined by Howard Carter who helped to write the initial excavation report. Carnarvon and Carter are associated with the discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings.
The Tomb of Tetaki was almost immediately closed to prevent looting, but it was reopened in 1924 to permit a study of the tomb paintings. Tetaki held the office of mayor and lived during the reign of the New Kingdom pharaoh Ahmose (1550-1525 BC).
Hawass has now stepped up pressure on the Louvre. The museum sponsored excavations in the necropolis of Saqqara have now been suspended, and a lecture due to be given by a former curator at the Louvre has been cancelled.
Frederic Mitterrand, the Minister of Culture for France, has responded positively to Hawass' request and the acquisition is now being investigated. Mitterand also stated that the items had been acquired in "good faith." It has been reported that some of the pieces had been purchased from a Paris Gallery, and that one had surfaced initially at an auction in London in the early 1980s.
The action taken by Hawass against the Louvre has implications for other museums that have acquired Egyptian material in recent years. Egypt has been stepping up the pressure on the St. Louis Art Museum that acquired a 19th Dynasty mummy mask in 1998 from a Geneva-based dealer. The mask was excavated at Saqqara in 1952 and Hawass claims that it was stolen from the archaeological store during the 1980s. The Museum has so far rejected any Egyptian claims on the mask.