The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced on 15 February that it has agreed to return an ancient golden coffin to Egypt after learning that the artefact was looted from Egypt in 2011.
The ancient Egyptian coffin from the 1st century B.C. was inscribed for Nedjemankh, a high-ranking priest of the ram-headed god Heryshef of Herakleopolis. The gilded coffin was the centrepiece of the Met’s recent exhibition Nedjemankh and His Gilded Coffin, alongside 70 other works on display.
The Met said in their official statement on Friday that they purchased the highly ornamented artefact museum in 2017 and were fooled by a false ownership history, fraudulent statements, and fake documentation, including a forged 1971 Egyptian export license for the coffin. It has delivered the gilded Coffin of Nedjemankh to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which presented the museum with evidence that suggested the artefact had been looted from Egypt in 2011.
According to a spokesman for the museum, the Met bought the artefact from a Paris-based art dealer Christophe Kunicki in Paris for €3.5m (about US$3.95m). The museum is considering “all means” for the recovery of the money it had paid.
The exhibition, originally scheduled to run through April 21, has been viewed by 448,096 visitors since its opening in July 2018. It ended earlier last week after the Coffin was taken off view by the museum.
The museum said in the statement that all of the Museum’s acquisitions of ancient art undergo a rigorous vetting process in recognition of the 1970 UNESCO treaty. It will review and revise its acquisitions process to prevent such events in the future.