Museum Solves Riddle Of The Sands.

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Margaret Hussey

Express Newspapers.


A riddle of Ancient Egypt has been unraveled by experts at the British Museum.

The mystery centered on whether a stone head of Queen Nefertari was a priceless artifact dating back to  the 13th century BC -- or a cheap tourist souvenir.

The Museum was able to establish that the sculpture, smuggled out of Egypt 10 years ago, was the real thing. Yesterday, January 22nd, it was formally handed back to the Cairo government. The image of Nefertari -- main queen of Rameses II -- had been refashioned and painted to make it look cheap in the smuggling operation.

It was part of a haul removed from Egypt by Jonathan Tokeley-Parry, a restorer who received a 6 year jail sentence in 1997 for smuggling. But the sculpture was sold on to a private dealer who contested the Egyptian Government claims on its ownership on the grounds he believed it was a fake.

A Museum spokeswoman said:   "The whole issue about whether it  should be returned to Egypt was pinned on whether it was an original.  We have been able to prove that it was. it was smuggled out heavily painted to look like a cheap tourist souvenir -- something you might buy in a market. Because the face was damaged, in order to give it a higher value they rebuilt it using stone drilled out of its head."

Ambassador Adel El-Gazzar who received the sculpture -- known as the Meryet Head -- said:  "The decision to return the head to Egypt represents an important victory in the ongoing fight against the illegal trade in archaeological artifacts around the world."


Copyright   Margaret Hussey  and Express Newspapers 2000.


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