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Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
19 July 2005
Australia has returned to Egyptian authorities several 2500-year-old artefacts at the centre of an alleged smuggling racket.
The ancient artefacts were discovered in Melbourne after the Austalian Government agreed to a request from the Egyptian Government to help in the global search for the items.
The Australian Federal Police received a referral from the Attorney-General’s Department earlier this year and took possession of them under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986.
The Egyptian Government is prosecuting the alleged perpetrators and the artefacts will be used as material evidence in the case.
The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said the items were funerary objects discovered in tombs in the Memphis necropolis and they dated from the Late Period of Egyptian history (664 BCE—332 BCE), making them about 2,500 years old.
“Australia is one of the first countries to return objects associated with this case to the Egyptian people, sending a clear message that the Australian Government is committed to helping stamp out the illegal trade of the world’s precious movable cultural heritage,” Senator Campbell said.
“While Egyptian authorities say they cannot put a commercial value on the artefacts, they are precious in terms of their cultural value and they belong with the Egyptian people.
“I am pleased that the Australian Government has been able to return them to their rightful owners.”
The artefacts reveal a great deal about ancient Egyptian attitudes to death and the afterlife and include several shabtis (small funerary statuettes), a bronze axe head, a ceramic bowl and amulets to help the deceased find their way to the afterlife.
The Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 regulates the export of cultural heritage objects from Australia. The Act protects, for the benefit of the nation, objects which if exported would significantly diminish Australia’s cultural heritage.
The Act also includes provisions that allow the Australian Government to respond to official requests from foreign governments to return their nation’s cultural heritage objects that have been illegally exported.
For more information on the Act go to http://www.deh.gov.au/heritage/movable/index.html
Minister Campbell Renae Stoikos (02) 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434