Page last updated at 22:53 GMT, Saturday, 13 March 2010

Ancient wooden sarcophagus returned to Egypt from US

Wooden sarcophagus stolen from Egypt (13 March 010)
Egypt says the sarcophagus was smuggled out of the country in 1884

A 3,000-year-old wooden sarcophagus stolen from Egypt more than 125 years ago has been returned from the US.

It was confiscated at Miami airport by customs officials after it arrived in a shipment from Spain in 2008 and the importer was unable to prove ownership.

The sarcophagus dates back to the 21st Dynasty (1070-945BC) and is thought to have belonged to a noble called Imesy.

The head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities travelled to Washington on Wednesday to lobby for its return.

Zahi Hawass accompanied the item on its return to Cairo on Saturday, when he announced that Egypt would also take back a number of other antiquities illegally shipped to the US, including coffins, pottery and art.

Investigations had found that the coffin was stolen more than 100 years ago and taken to Spain, before it was shipped to the US in recent years.

Thousands of antiquities were taken from Egypt during its colonial era by archaeologists, adventurers and thieves.

During the past few years, the Egyptian authorities have stepped up their efforts to recover stolen artefacts.

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