Irish university to return 2,000-year-old mummified remains and sarcophagus to Egypt

University College Cork will also repatriate funerary masks and jars used to store organs for afterlife

University College Cork has has the 2,000-year-old Egyptian artefacts for almost 100 years. Photo: University College Cork
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Ireland’s University College Cork has said it will repatriate ancient artefacts, including mummified human remains and a sarcophagus, to Egypt next year.

The items, which were donated to the university in 1928, also include a set of canopic jars — containers used by ancient Egyptians during the mummification process, to store and preserve the organs of their owner for the afterlife — and items of cartonnage, material used in funerary masks.

University College Cork said the artefacts date back to the period between 975BC and 100AD.

The decision to repatriate the artefacts is the result of talks with the Egyptian embassy in Dublin, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and the National Museum of Ireland, the university said.

A plan for the items’ safe return to Egypt is being devised and they are expected to be repatriated next year, it added.

“UCC takes seriously the care of its heritage assets and is pleased to be in a position to present these objects to the Egyptian state,” UCC president Prof John O’Halloran said.

“I wish to thank all stakeholders for their assistance in developing a programme for the return of these items.”

Egypt’s ambassador to Ireland, Mohamed Selim, thanked Prof O’Halloran and Irish and Egyptian officials for their co-operation in the repatriation effort.

When given to the university, the mummified remains were believed to be those of an ancient queen. They had been uncovered Luxor’s Valley of the Queens between 1903 and 1904.

However, tests by the university determined that they were the remains of a man, aged between 45 and 50. The sarcophagus did not belong to the same person.

The artefacts' journey back to Egypt is set to be documented in a “creative project” entitled Kinship.

This will be led by artist Dorothy Cross and producer Mary Hickson, said the university.

Egypt's repatriated artefacts - in pictures

Updated: December 12, 2022, 1:44 PM