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Friday, 21 January, 2000, 13:19 GMT
Britain returns Egyptian sculpture

The British Museum has announced it is to return to Egypt a sculpted head of a pharaonic queen that was smuggled out of the country.

An Egyptologist from the museum, Dr Jeffrey Spencer, said the piece dates from the thirteenth century BC, and is thought to represent Nefertari, the principal queen of Rameses the second.

Dr Spencer said the scuplture was one of a number of pieces recently stolen by a gang of smugglers, whose aim was to sell them to private collectors in Britain.

An individual brought the sculpture to the Museum to be assessed in 1994, and it was recognised by staff as a stolen item. Police subsequently seized many more antiquities in a raid, which were held in safekeeping by the British Museum until the conclusion of a court case against the gang.

Several pieces have already been returned to Egypt.

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