- Discovered in Saqara in 1985, stolen then auctioned, an ancient funerary statue "could finally go home to Egypt where it belongs," according to the Cairo government.
A recently found, precious "ushabti" - a funerary figurine that was placed in tombs among the grave goods and intended to act as substitutes for the deceased - dating back to ancient Egypt's 19th Dynasty has caught Dutch and Egyptian culture authorities by surprise.
The around 4000 years old figurine was identified when a collector - who had bought the statue, having no background about the heist - showed it to experts at a museum in Lyden, the Netherlands, in 2006.
It was only then that the amateur collector knew what he had in possession; an 8.8 cm statue of a woman made of pottery that was unearthed some 27 years ago, except that it has never been on display at any museum. "All parties concerned agreed that they should return the piece to Egypt," according to Egyptian authorities.
"Dutch authorities have delivered the ushabti to representatives of the Egyptian government in order to take it back home," an Egyptian Embassy statement said.
Ushabtis originally were mostly mummy-form. Later figurines, including those of the 19th Dynasty, began to be fashioned as servants with baskets, sacks, and other agricultural tools. The small statues were to serve or substitute the deceased, according to ancient Egyptian religion.
Produced in huge numbers, ushabtis are with scarabs the most numerous of all ancient Egyptian antiquities to survive. However, the export of archaeological artefacts is strictly forbidden from Egypt, as from other cultural nations. Egypt is struggling an uphill battle to prevent the illegal exports of its cultural heritage, while also trying to secure the return of ancient monuments stolen by European and American "discoverers" in earlier ages.
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