Smuggled Egyptian artefact rescued from London auction sale

The carved tablet section was returned to the Egyptian embassy in London in September

This undated photo released by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, shows a  illegally smuggled, artifact repatriated from the United Kingdom. Tuesday’s statement said the newly recovered relief with cartouche of King Amonhotep I from the 18th dynasty, was on display at a London auction house. It said the relief was originally exhibited at the open museum of the ancient temple of Karnak in the city of Luxor. It didn’t say how the artifact was smuggled out of the country. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities via AP)
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A section of an ancient Egyptian stone tablet has been recovered after being smuggled from Luxor to London.

The cartouche of King Amenhotep I was discovered at London auction house by the Egyptian antiquities ministry after scouring auction websites across the world. Once found, the sale was halted and the artefact returned to the Egyptian embassy in London in September.

The tablet was originally on display at the open museum of the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, and it is not yet clear how the item was taken and smuggled from the country, said Shaaban Abdel-Gawad, general supervisor of the Antiquities Repatriation Department at the ministry,

King Amenhotep I, born in 1550 BC, ruled Egypt from 1526 to 1506 BC. His tomb can be found at the Temple of Karnak, which he expanded during his reign.

The Arab Spring and the political unrest it sparked opened a gap for smugglers to operate mostly unnoticed in the country. Since 2011, the US-based Antiquities Coalition estimates $3 billion worth of Egyptian antiquities have been smuggled out of the country.

However, those caught breaking the 1983 Protection of Antiquities Law face severe consequences including mandatory prison time and huge fines.