Ancient coins and Coptic cross seized by antiquities police at Cairo airport

The items, which date back to Egypt's Greco-Roman, Byzantine and Coptic eras, were being carried by a departing traveller

The coins were found in the luggage of a traveller leaving from Cairo International Airport on Tuesday. Photo: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Security officials at Cairo International Airport have seized 10 metal coins dating back to the Greco-Roman and Byzantine periods of Egyptian history, and a metal cross, dating back to the Coptic period.

The Egyptian antiquities ministry on Tuesday morning said airport security staff alerted them to the existence of the items, which were being carried by a departing traveller.

Experts were sent to examine the items, according to the ministry. They confirmed that they were indeed smuggled antiquities.

The coins, which were quickly catalogued by the team, were of varying shapes and sizes.

Some of them bore ancient Greek inscriptions and others were decorated with depictions of Roman emperors. One of the coins dated back to the Byzantine era.

The cross was the most elaborate piece in the group of smuggled artefacts.

A Coptic cross found among a group of antiquities seized by Egyptian police at Cairo International Airport on March 1, 2022. The items were being smuggled out of Egypt by a traveller. Photo: Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities

Made entirely of metal, the cross is decorated with several circular inlays and a ring from which it can be hung on a chain.

Artefact smuggling is rampant in Egypt, a fact that Egyptologist Bassam El Shamaa say is owed to the abundance of antiquities left behind by the many different civilizations that have ruled Egypt throughout its millennia-long history.

Antiquities officials have in recent months intensified their efforts to catalogue the country’s relics to ensure a record of them is kept in case they are stolen or smuggled abroad.

However, Mr El Shamaa told The National that there is more to be done to protect the country’s heritage, as many important pieces continue to be smuggled out of Egypt and sold at some of the world’s most prestigious auction houses, including Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

Updated: March 01, 2022, 1:58 PM
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