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Saturday, 28 July, 2001, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
Ancient sculpture returns to Egypt
Ambassador Adel El-Gazzarwith sculpture
An Egyptian official admires the sculpture

By Caroline Hawley in Cairo

The sculpted head of an ancient Egyptian Queen smuggled to Britain during the 1990s has been flown back to Cairo from London along with six stolen papyrus scrolls.

Egyptian antiquities officials believe the lifesize head represents Queen Nefertari, who was married to the Pharoah Ramses II.

The grey granite head, dating back to around 1300 BC, was carried back to Cairo by the director of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Gaballa Ali Gaballa.

Its return, he said, was a message that Egypt would not give up trying to recover its stolen artefacts.

The scupture was among dozens of priceless items taken from a store room in Sakara south of Cairo and smuggled to Britain disguised as fakes.

Smugglers jailed

In 1997 a court in England sentenced an art dealer, Jonathan Tokley-Parry, to six years in prison after a major British and Egyptian investigation cracked the smuggling ring.

Nine Egyptians were also jailed by a court in Cairo.

Some of the other artefacts stolen by the ring have already been brought back to Egypt but the Egyptian authorities are still fighting in court for the return of another head representing a Pharoah which was sold to a private collector.

They are also in the process of trying to recover antiquities smuggled to New York.

At the same time Egypt has been trying to curb further smuggling but with so many antiquities in the country both at historical sites and in storage, it's a tricky task.

See also:

17 May 98 | Despatches
Smuggling threatens Cambodia's heritage
26 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Disaster that struck the ancients
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