Two ancient Egyptian statues smuggled to Belgium were returned to Egypt on Sunday, six years after they were discovered in a showroom in Brussels.
One of the statues, of a man standing, dates back to the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt (2649—2130BC) and is made of painted wood.
The other, which dates back to the Late Period (525-332 BC) of pharaonic Egypt, is of a man sleeping on his back with his arms crossed over his chest. It is what is known as an ushabti statue, a funerary figurine that was an integral part of ancient Egyptian burial rites.
Belgian police reportedly discovered the statues on sale at an antiquities showroom in Brussels in 2016. They confiscated the statues after finding that the showroom did not have the legal paperwork required to own them.
Egypt's tourism and antiquities ministry said Belgian authorities gave the statues to Egyptian foreign ministry officials in Brussels last year, after receiving the necessary order from a Belgian court.
The ministry has recently stepped up efforts to find and retrieve artefacts smuggled out of the country, particularly during the months of instability following the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak from the presidency.
Sixteen artefacts recovered in the US were returned last week.
They included a piece of a wooden coffin with a layer of coloured plaster depicting a woman’s face; a limestone slab decorated with hieroglyphs; and a scene of people making a sacrifice to the gods.
Also recovered were five pieces of a linen cloth with drawings of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, reportedly a Byzantine illustration of scenes from the Book of Exodus.