Spain returns contraband artifacts to Egypt

Some of the antiques, which are due to be returned to Egypt by the Spanish Civil Guard, are seen ahead of the press conference at the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid, Spain, December 20, 2021. REUTERS / Juan Medina

Spain returned 36 antiques stolen from Egyptian authorities on Monday, including figurines of gods and goddesses and ancient jars intended to contain human remains.

The artifacts – including a granite sculpture of the lion’s head of warrior goddess Sekhmet – have been illegally removed from archaeological sites, officials said.

Smugglers took them to Spain where police then seized them after an investigation in 2014.

The Egyptian Ambassador to Spain, Youssef Diaeldin Mekkawy, received them during a ceremony at the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid.

“The recovery of these 36 archaeological pieces is a successful operation that has taken years, a coordinated operation between the Egyptian and Spanish authorities,” he told Reuters.

The artifacts, worth more than 150,000 euros ($ 170,000), were likely all looted from the sites of Saqqara and Mit Rahina, Spanish police said.

Egypt and other states have stepped up their campaigns for the return of artifacts taken by smugglers or looted by imperial powers.