Looting Matters: Why Did the Met Purchase an Object to Return It to Egypt?
SWANSEA, Wales, Oct. 30 /PRNewswire/ — David Gill, archaeologist, reflects on the decision by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to return a granite fragment to Egypt.
The Met has announced that it will be returning a granite fragment from a shrine (or naos) to Egypt on Thursday October 29, 2009. The piece bears the name of the 12th Dynasty (Middle Kingdom) pharaoh Amenemhat I (1985-1956 BC). The shrine was linked to the Egyptian god Amun. Dorothea Arnold, the Lila Acheson Wallace Chairman of the Museum’s Egyptian Art Department, spotted that the fragment appeared to come from Karnak. Further research with Adela Oppenheim demonstrated that it came from the corner of a naos.
This praiseworthy action has a surprising twist. The shrine fragment had been on loan to the Met from a private collector although it had never been placed on public display. Instead of suggesting that the present proprietor return the object to Egypt, the Met took the surprising decision to purchase the piece “in order to take official possession of the work and return it promptly and unencumbered to Egypt”.
The identity of the collector has not been declared. It is not clear how the purchase was funded, especially given the present pressure on the museum’s budget.
Thomas P. Campbell, the Met’s Director, commented on the repatriation: “Though the fragment is small, its return is a larger symbol of the Museum’s deep respect for the importance of protecting Egypt’s cultural heritage and the long history of warm relations the Museum enjoys with Egypt and the Supreme Council of Antiquities.”
The return to Egypt helps to restore the reputation of the Met in the wake of the negotiated transfer of the Euphronios krater to Italy in 2006.
Earlier in October, the Louvre in Paris agreed to return some reliefs to Egypt that appeared to have been removed from a tomb at Thebes.
SOURCE Looting Matters