June 12, 2006

Stolen Egyptian artifact removed from NY auction

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A 4000-year-old Egyptian alabaster
container shaped like a duck and used for a funeral offering
has been withdrawn from auction because it may be stolen
property, Christie's auction house said on Monday.

The Old Kingdom alabaster offering vessel dating from 2575
to 2134 BC was expected to sell for $20,000 to $30,000 before
it was withdrawn from the sale, according to the Christie's
online catalog for its June 16 sale of antiquities in New York.

"Upon receiving information which led us to believe that
the object had possibly been improperly taken out of Egypt, we
contacted the appropriate U.S. authorities and withdrew the
item from the sale," Christie's said in a statement.

"We are pleased that the transparency of the public auction
system has led to the possible identification of a stolen work
of art and its return to its country of origin," it said,
adding that the item would be returned as soon as possible.

The catalog listing described the vessel as "composed of
two halves, sculpted in the form of a trussed fowl."

It said the item was used to contain offerings of food and
drink which, according to ancient Egyptian burial practices,
the deceased required for survival in the afterlife.

"In richly appointed tombs the offerings were often stored
in containers mirroring the contents inside," it said.