In 2021 alone, more than 800 artefacts were seized in ports before being smuggled abroad.
Egypt has always been plagued by looting at the hands of smugglers, with its most prized treasures circling the world’s museums and private collections. In the latest of a string of confiscations, the archaeological unit at Cairo International Airport foiled a smuggling attempt of nine ancient coins from various historical periods as well as a brass candlestick dating back to the reign of Khedive Ismail.
The recovered coins include three golden coins from the Byzantine era. Two of which are engraved with a bust of Emperor Constantine II dressed in royal attire on one side, and an amphitheatre surmounted by a cross and bordered by inscriptions on the other side. The third coin features the same amphitheatre imagery on one side, but depicts Emperor Heraclius with his sons on the other side.
Along with the Byzantine-era coinage, six metal alloy coins from Egypt’s Ptolemaic era were seized including five drachma coins and one undetermined coin. All the coins are engraved with a bust of the god Zeus on one side and a combination of ancient Greek motifs on the other featuring an eagle, the horn of good deeds and inscriptions.
In 2021 alone, more than 800 artefacts were seized in ports before being smuggled abroad. The Egyptian authorities repatriated 5,266 antiquities from a number of countries including the U.S., the Netherlands, France, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, England, Italy and Germany. 5,000 of those artefacts include manuscripts, papyrus, funerary masks, coffins, and statues that were returned from the U.S.
In February 2021, the Egyptian parliament approved a series of amendments to the Egyptian Antiquities Law that increase the severity of punishment for antiquity trafficking, stipulating that those found guilty of smuggling will be punished with life imprisonment and a fine up to EGP 5 million.