U.S. Government Demands that St. Louis Museum Return Mummy Mask to Egypt

Monday, March 21, 2011
Ka-Nefer-Nefer Mask (photo: St. Louis Art Museum)
Officials with the St. Louis Art Museum are fighting an attempt by the U.S. Attorney’s office to have an ancient mummy mask returned to Egypt, from where it was allegedly stolen decades ago.
 
The artifact in question is the 3,200-year-old mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, first discovered in 1952 by an Egyptian archeologist, Mohamed Zakaria Goneim, near the step pyramid of Saqarra. The Egyptian government claims the mask was stolen after it was shipped to a Cairo museum. It eventually wound up in the hands of New York antiquities dealership Phoenix Ancient Art, owned by brothers Hicham and Ali Aboutaam, who sold it for $499,000 to the St. Louis museum in 1998. In 2006, Egyptian officials learned the mask was in St. Louis and have been calling for its return ever since.
 
Museum officials say they had no idea the mask was unlawfully removed from Egypt, but have nevertheless filed suit in federal court to keep the U.S. Attorney from seizing the antiquity.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
Government Sues to Seize St. Louis Museum's Mummy Mask (by Jennifer Mann, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Out of Egypt (by Malcolm Gay, Riverfront Times)

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