Stolen fragment of 3,400-year-old statue of Ramses II returned to Egypt

Swiss authorities hand over illegally obtained artefact to Egypt

The head of a colossal statue of Ramses II displayed at the Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris. AFP
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After more than three decades, a stolen fragment of a 3,400-year-old statue of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II was ceremoniously returned to Egypt by Swiss authorities on Monday.

The director of the Federal Office of Culture in Switzerland, Carine Bachmann, personally presented the relic to the Egyptian embassy in the Swiss capital, Bern.

The ancient artefact had been seized in Geneva as part of a criminal investigation and was subsequently returned to its rightful home under Switzerland's law governing the international transfer of cultural goods.

According to the culture ministry, the ancient fragment is part of a group statue that represents the renowned pharaoh Ramses II seated among various Egyptian gods.

The invaluable piece was illicitly removed from the Temple of Ramses II at Abydos, Egypt, sometime between the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The fragment changed hands and crossed numerous international borders before ending up in Switzerland.

A statement released by the culture ministry highlighted that Egypt continues to be adversely affected by rampant looting and destruction of its archaeological treasures, with artefacts from the North African country being in high demand among collectors.

Ramses II, popularly referred to as Ramses the Great, is remembered for his more than 60-year reign during the 13th century BC.

He is celebrated for leading large-scale military campaigns, initiating massive construction projects, and fathering over 100 children.

His intricately adorned sarcophagus is currently on exhibition in Paris from April to September as part of a travelling showcase. However, the mummy of Ramses II remains in Egypt, as current Egyptian laws prohibit the overseas transport of royal mummies.

Updated: July 03, 2023, 5:03 PM