A 3,000-year-old sculpture of Tutankhamun was yesterday auctioned off by UK-based Christie’s auction house for nearly $6 million, despite Cairo calling on the UK government to stop the sale. Egypt claimed the relic was illegally taken from the country.
UK-based Christie’s auction house sold an ancient sculpture of King Tut’s head for £4,746,250 ($5,969,904, €5,290,171, ₦2,147,778,887) on Thursday. The organization did not share any information about the buyer.
Christie’s decided to go ahead with the auction amid protests from Egypt’s government and despite a small protest outside its London premises. Cairo has argued that the relic was smuggled out of Egypt and is still legally owned by the state.
“I believe that it was taken out of Egypt illegally,” Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities told the Reuters news agency. “[Christie’s] has not presented any documents to prove otherwise.”
The country’s foreign ministry says that the bust was probably stolen from an Egyptian temple during the 1970s.
Christie’s says Egypt has not expressed concern about the bust in the past, despite it being exhibited publicly.
In a statement, Christie’s said: “The object is not, and has not been, the subject of an investigation.” The auction house said it would never auction an object over which there were legitimate concerns.
Christie’s also published a chronology of the relic’s owners for the past 50 years. The bust is understood to have been acquired from German aristocrat Prinz Wilhelm von Thurn between 1973 and 1974.
The auction house also said that the bust’s existence had been known for a considerable time and it had been on display for a number of years.
Egypt’s former antiquities minister Zahi Hawass told AFP news agency: “We think it left Egypt after 1970 because in that time other artefacts were stolen from Karnak Temple.”
Egypt introduced laws in 1983 banning the removal of artefacts from the country.
Tutankhamun died over 3,000 years ago aged 19. His remains were found in 1922.
©Reuters & BBC