Egyptian antiquities returned to Egypt

8 April 2015

Today the Australian Government returned a number of culturally significant antiquities to Egyptian authorities in an official ceremony at the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

The return of antiquities to Egypt is the result of a shared commitment by the governments of Egypt and Australia to protect and preserve cultural objects.

The antiquities date back to significant periods in Egyptian history and were exported from Egypt in breach of its national cultural laws.

This collection of antiquities includes many funerary objects such as a wooden hand belonging to an anthropoid coffin, small statuettes known as shabtis to serve the deceased in the afterlife, as well as a number of amulets to protect the deceased. A Coptic textile fragment and large saucer lamp were also among the relics returned to Egyptian authorities.

The items were seized from an auction house and private residence in Australia by the Ministry for the Arts and Australian Federal Police at the request of Egyptian authorities.

Australian and Egyptian authorities have a long and successful history of collaboration in pursuit of the return of items of cultural significance to Egypt. In 2011 a collection of 122 ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman artefacts, some dating from the fourth millennium BC, found in auction halls in Melbourne were returned to the Arab Republic of Egypt under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986.

Under that legislation, Australia can return illegally exported cultural heritage property to its country of origin if a foreign government makes a request.

I welcome the opportunity to return these significant antiquities to Egypt. More information about the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act is available on the Ministry for the Arts website.