Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Egypt demands artefacts' return

Otto Smith dug in various locations across Egypt

Egypt has asked Sweden for the return of 212 artefacts taken out of the country in the 1920s.

Egypt's chief archaeologist Zahi Hawass said they were taken in an "illegal manner" by Swedish collector Otto Smith from locations like Saqqara and Luxor.

He said lawyers for the country's Council of Antiquities have contacted Sweden's Ostergotlands County Museum.

The museum confirmed Egypt was seeking to recover about 200 items, but was awaiting a formal request.

Museum director Maria Jansen said she had been contacted by the Egyptian Embassy in Stockholm about the matter, but could not comment further.

She said the items were one of the museum's most "important" collections.


Mr Smith took the objects home to Sweden with him, and after his death his family gave the pieces to the Ostergotlands Museum, asking the museum to look after them, according to Mr Hawass.

Mr Hawass claimed the museum displayed some of the artefacts in its restaurant, which caused damage and neglect.

He added that the Smith family has now accused the museum of breach of contract and also wanted the pieces returned to Egypt.

The family could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mr Hawass said the objects include items from the pharaonic era and ancient Egyptian Coptic pieces.

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