The Egyptian government has called on the British auction house, Christie’s to halt the sale of a 3,000 year-old bust of the boy king Tutankhamun, due to be held Thursday.
Cairo says the bust was probably stolen from an ancient Egyptian site in the 1970s, something Christie’s denies.
Tutankhamun was nine years old when he became Pharaoh around 1336BC. The discovery of his tomb thousands of years later in 1922 caused a sensation, sparking an interest in the reign of the “boy king” that has never waned.
But this sale by Christie’s of an 11-inch 28cm quartz relic which depicts Tutankhamun’s features has been condemned by Egypt’s foreign ministry. It says the piece appears to have been stolen from the Karnak Temple complex in the 1970s.
Christie’s says it would never auction an object over which there were legitimate concerns, and has published a chronology of the relic’s owners over the last 50 years.
It shows that the bust was owned by a German prince in the 1970s, but it doesn’t explain how the object came to Europe from the Middle East before that time.