The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will return a piece of a red granite naos of the 12th Dynasty king Amenemhat I to Egypt on Thursday. Egypt’s Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, announced the return Monday, adding that the piece was purchased by the Museum from an antiquities collector in New York last October in order to return it to Egypt.
Dr. Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) described this action by the Metropolitan Museum as “a great deed,” as this is the first time a museum has bought an object for the purpose of returning it to its country of origin. This action, asserted Hawass, highlights the deep cultural cooperation between the SCA and the Metropolitan Museum, as well as the Met’s devotion to return illegal antiquities to their homelands.
“It is also a kind gesture from the newly appointed Met director Thomas Campbell,” said Hawass.
Hawass relates the story of this object, which started last October when Dr. Dorthea Arnold, the curator of the Egyptian section at the Metropolitan Museum, wrote an official letter to Dr. Hawass, stating the Met’s desire to offer Egypt the piece. It is a part of the base of Amenemhat I’s naos, the rest of the naos is now in the Ptah temple of Karnak in Luxor.
The piece of the base was presented to the Metropolitan Museum by a collector in New York, who claimed he bought it in the 1970s. Dr. Arnold discovered that the granite fragment must join with the naos in Karnak, which scholars believe was moved there during the New Kingdom.
An article with a drawing in the Annales de Service Vol. 3 and a photograph taken in the early 20th century by French Egyptologist Georges Legrain show that the naos base in Karnak has been missing its corner since at least 1902. The Met successfully negotiated with the owner of the piece for the transfer of the naos corner to the Metropolitan Museum, which will in turn send it to Egypt.
The piece will arrive in Cairo on Thursday and it will undergo restoration in order to return it to its original place in the naos in the Ptah temple at Karnak.