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Ancient Egyptian artefact returned after being smuggled to London auction house

Key Points
  • Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced on Tuesday that a stolen relic had been returned to its home country.
  • The artefact was discovered on display at an undisclosed London auction house.
  • It was a tablet featuring the hieroglyph that represented King Amenhotep I.
Egypt Ministry of Antiquities

An ancient Egyptian artefact has been returned after being illegally smuggled out of the country and displayed in an unnamed London auction house.

In a statement on Tuesday, Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities confirmed that the relic — a tablet carved with the cartouche of King Amenhotep I — had been recovered, after the ministry scoured the websites of international auction halls.

Shaaban Abdel-Gawad, general supervisor of the ministry's antiquities repatriation department, said it took "all the necessary procedures to stop the sale of the relief and withdraw it from auction."

It had previously been displayed at the Karnak Open Air Museum in the Egyptian city of Luxor.

The ministry closely cooperated with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Egyptian embassy in London, and British authorities to recover the artefact. It was received by the embassy in September but only arrived back in Egypt this week.

Egypt Ministry of Antiquities

It is unclear how or when the tablet was stolen from Egypt. According to Egyptian newspaper Daily News Egypt, more than 1,000 smuggled artefacts have been returned to the country over the past two years.

Spokespersons for the Egyptian ministries involved in the recovery were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

While the exact value of the relic has not been specified, previous sales have seen items from the ancient kingdom valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Last year, Christie's auction house in New York sold an ancient Egyptian artefact — a granite head of Pharaoh Nectanebo II — for $732,500.