iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The United States government returned a collection of stolen artifacts to Egypt on Thursday, including an ancient wooden sarcophagus, a mummy shroud and mummified hand.
The items were seized by federal agents after dual investigations: “Operation Mummy’s Curse” in New York and “Operation Mummy’s Hand” in Los Angeles. They were returned to Egypt at a ceremony with U.S. and Egyptian officials at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
“While we recognize that cultural property, art, and antiquities are assigned a dollar value in the marketplace, the cultural and symbolic worth of these Egyptian treasures far surpasses any monetary value to the people of Egypt,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah R. Saldaña in a statement.
Repatriation is the final step in federal law enforcement’s ongoing effort to track down the theft and trafficking of antiquities from around the world — many of which end up in the United States. Customs law gives Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the authority to seize stolen cultural property that has been illegally imported into the country.
In the past year, ICE returned more than 200 artifacts to India, as well as a stolen 1493 copy of Christopher Columbus’ letter describing his discoveries in the Americas to Italy.
“Each of the artifacts returned today tells a story –- a human story, our story. History comes alive when someone is able to not only read about the past, but is also able to visit the historical sites, watch and enjoy the artifacts, appreciate the images and see the actual writings of our ancestors,” read a statement from Foreign Minister of Egypt Sameh Shoukry.
Federal authorities aim to create good will and bolster diplomacy between the U.S. and foreign governments through these types of investigations and returns.
In a statement thanking the work of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ICE, Egyptian Ambassador to the U.S. Yasser Reda included special praise for the agents working on the case.
“The tireless work of these men and women may often go unseen. But it is nothing short of vital for the preservation of ancient cultures from around the world,” said Reda.
Here is a list of the items of “cultural significance” from 8th century BC returned to the Egyptian government:
Linen Mummy Shroud
Child’s Wooden Sarcophagus
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